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Men’s basketball wins season opener, sets program record for 3-pointers

Men’s basketball wins season opener, sets program record for 3-pointers

Men’s basketball wins season opener, sets program record for 3-pointers
November 27
09:40 2020

Competing in its first game since March, North Texas men’s basketball (1-0, 0-0 Conference USA) opened its non-conference slate with a 116-62 victory over Mississippi Valley State University (0-2, 0-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference).

In defeating the Delta Devils, North Texas made a program-record 21 3-pointers to break its previous single-game record of 19, set against Mary Hardin-Baylor in 1996.

After a slow first few minutes of the game, North Texas captured the lead and never looked back, leading the game 51-27 at halftime and beginning the second half on a 17-0 run.

North Texas also won the rebounding battle against MVSU by a wide margin, out-rebounding the Delta Devils 43 to 24. Senior forward Thomas Bell tallied nine rebounds to lead North Texas on the glass, while fellow senior forward Zachary Simmons added seven boards of his own.

Leading the way in scoring for the Mean Green were senior guard James Reese and junior guard Mardrez McBride, who made his North Texas debut. The two scored 21 points each and combined to make 11 of the team’s 21 3-pointers.

“Seeing those guys knocking down shots, it definitely made me want to hit some shots,” Reese said. “Coach always says the ball has energy. Some people just need to touch it, feel good and make shots.”

McBride said he felt very comfortable in his debut after all the work he and the team put in to prepare for this season and said it felt great to be able to produce the way he did. Head coach Grant McCasland said he was thrilled with McBride’s performance, particularly with the struggles he had gone through in practice.

“Honestly, his transition has been difficult,” McCasland said. “ It has been a lot of learning and some tough moments in practices and scrimmages. So, for him to be able to come out here in our first game and make some shots and have some confidence, it’s encouraging that he got a chance to see that.”

McBride, a transfer from the University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie, scored the first points of the game for the Mean Green and was one of five players to debut on Thursday. Two freshmen had 10 points apiece for the Mean Green in forward Abou Ousmane, who also added four rebounds, and freshman guard Rubin Jones tallied three rebounds and made two 3-pointers.

On the defensive side of the ball, North Texas stifled MVSU’s top returning player in sophomore guard Caleb Hunter, who was the SWAC Freshman of the Year last season. They held Hunter scoreless through the game’s first 16 minutes, and Hunter finished with eight points on 3-for-14 from the field and 2-for-8 on 3-pointers.

In playing the team’s first game of the season on Thanksgiving, McCasland said he was thankful for the opportunity to begin the season and did not take the opportunity for granted.

“It’s not easy to get to this point and I don’t want to take it for granted,” McCasland said. “So I’m really thankful to everybody at North Texas for making this game happen. Just to play these days is a big deal, so we don’t take it lightly that we got the opportunity to compete.”

McCasland said the team has plenty to work on heading into its Sunday matchup with Arkansas despite the lopsided win, including minimizing the team’s 17 turnovers.

“We’ve worked hard at shooting the basketball and we shot it well today,” McCasland said. “But, really, we’ve got to play significantly better and there are tons of different areas where we can improve.”

UP NEXT: Men’s basketball is set to take on the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT before returning home to face Texas A&M-Commerce on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.

Featured Image: Senior guard James Reese gets in a defensive stance against Western Kentucky on March 1, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

John Fields

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