North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball set for final homestand as C-USA tournament looms

Men’s basketball set for final homestand as C-USA tournament looms

Men’s basketball set for final homestand as C-USA tournament looms
February 24
11:53 2022

With three road wins since its last home game on Feb. 7, men’s basketball returns to Denton this week for its last two home games of the season.

North Texas will face the University of Southern Mississippi on Thursday night and Louisiana Tech University on Saturday afternoon. The Mean Green are 10-2 at home this season and have not lost a game at the Super Pit since Jan. 6. Southern Miss is 1-12 on the road so far this season and Louisiana Tech has a record of 7-3 away from home before facing Rice University on Thursday night.

“Playing on the road is tough, but being at home you are a little more comfortable,” senior guard JJ Murray said. “It only matters if you make it matter. We just have to come out and not let them get comfortable on our home floor.”

Entering Thursday’s contest on a 10-game losing streak, the Golden Eagles’ (6-21, 1-13 Conference USA) lone conference win came on Jan. 6 in San Antonio as they topped the University of Texas-San Antonio 74-73. Southern Mississippi could spoil North Texas’ chances of grabbing the top seed in the C-USA tournament.

“They have a great physicality and talent level to put themselves in position to win,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “But like we learned, you have to learn how to win.”

North Texas and Southern Mississippi have met once before this season on Jan. 27, where the Mean Green came away with a 63-54 victory on the road. North Texas started slowly in both halves, giving up a 10-0 run to start the game and a 9-0 run to begin the second half. Murray said the Mean Green need to start off stronger in the upcoming game.

The last time the Mean Green stepped on the court, a last-second 3-pointer from junior guard Tylor Perrypropelled them to victory overthe University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers. It was a similar shot to the game-winner Perry knocked down against LA Tech on Jan. 29, a defeat the Bulldogs will be looking to avenge on Saturday. Senior forward Thomas Bell said the key to winning the rematch will be starting off strong.

“We cannot find ourselves down and try to dig out of the situation,” Bell said. “We just need to come out and play hard.”

Bell is a player to keep an eye on these next two contests as he competes in the final two home games of his college career. He is averaging 14 points per game over the last 10 games, hitting double digits in seven of those games.

The Golden Eagles and the Bulldogs like to move a lot quicker than the Mean Green, as theScore ranks the two teams at a faster pace. Southern Miss has a pace of 67.9 and LA Tech’s pace sits at 70.6, putting them tied for 175th and 59th, respectively. North Texas is ranked 357th in pace, with its mark at 60.7.

“If you have a bad offense, you cannot get the defense set,” Murray said. “We can guard the whole shot clock. On offense, we are comfortable running the shot clock down and getting the best shot.”

The games against Southern Miss and LA Tech have C-USA tournament implications, as North Texas is trying to clinch the no. 1 seed. The no. 1 and no. 2 seeds in each division get a BYE until the quarterfinals, which means they have to only play three games, rather than four or five.

The Mean Green sit atop the C-USA West Division, with a record of 13-1 in conference play. With only four games left, only UAB or LA Tech can catch up, as they both have conference records of 10-4. UAB and LA Tech will play each other in the final game of the regular season on March 5.

A North Texas win would secure a top-two seed because neither the Blazers nor the Bulldogs would be able to fully pass the Mean Green in the standings with the number of games left.

McCasland said the team is not focused on the future, but rather honing in on what is happening in the present.

“The only way you can get better is to win games as they come down the schedule,” McCasland said. “We can look back at the end of the year and talk about the success.”

Featured Image: Mardrez McBride guards during a game on Feb. 7, 2022. Photo by Kristian Freeman

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Tyler Luker

Tyler Luker

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