North Texas Daily

North Texas wins first conference tournament game under McCasland

North Texas wins first conference tournament game under McCasland

North Texas wins first conference tournament game under McCasland
March 14
12:23 2019

The North Texas men’s basketball team (21-11, Conference USA 9-10) won their first Conference USA Tournament game under head coach Grant McCasland with a 71-57 victory over Florida International (19-12, Conference USA 10-9). This will be the Mean Green’s first win against Florida International in their third game this season. 

We definitely had a familiar opponent and give [Florida International] a lot of credit,” McCasland said. “It took everything for us after three games to figure out a way.”

Speculation grew that junior guard Ryan Woolridge would be able to play in the first round against Florida International after being listed as questionable with tendinitis in his knee. He ended up playing 32 minutes and scored nine points on 3-for-9 shooting. He also scored six rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

“We knew coming in we had to come in fighting and go all out,” Woolridge said. “It was a win or go home situation so we’re just trying to leave it all out there.”

North Texas ended the first half with a 17-point lead over the Golden Panthers, marking the first time in their three matchups they would go into halftime with the lead. The Mean Green were able to live up to their No. 1 ranked defense against the three against Florida International and shot 25 percent from beyond the arc (5-for-20).

The Mean Green finished the game with close to double the amount of rebounds compared to the Golden Panthers. North Texas grabbed 49 boards in concert with the Florida International’s 25. They also finished the game with a field goal percentage of 35.7 percent on 20-for-56 shooting. Moreover, North Texas ended the night having shot 25-for-59 with a field goal percentage of 42.4.

Florida International senior guard Brian Beard Jr. played 38 minutes and led the team in scoring on the night (13). However, Beard ended the game going 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. The senior guard had shot a combined 9-for-14 from three in the previous two games against the Mean Green.

Sophomore forward Zachary Simmons played 29 minutes and scored a double-double as well as led the team in rebounds (16) and was second in scoring (19). He shot 7-for-7 from the field and 5-for-8 from the free throw line and recorded three blocks.

“We had a great game plan, our coaches came up with a good game plan coming into this game,” Simmons said. “We spaced it out and read our mismatches and made good passes and it was easy after that.”

This was a step up for Simmons compared to last season’s performance in the first round when he played 30 minutes and scored three points on 1-for-5 shooting along with eight rebounds.

Senior guard Michael Miller finished the night with 10 rebounds, the second most on the team behind Simmons. Miller also scored eight points on 3-for-6 shooting and scored three assists along with two blocks. 

Freshman guard Umoja Gibson played 34 minutes and led the team in scoring (21). Gibson shot 47 percent from beyond the arc, all of his points came from behind the three-point line. He ended the night with four assists, two rebounds and two steals. Gibson improved upon his spot in second place all-time for 3-pointers scored in a season, reaching 98.

The Mean Green will face off against Western Kentucky (18-13, C-USA 11-7) in the second round of the Conference USA Tournament on Mar. 14 at 8:30 p.m. The last time North Texas faced off against the Hilltoppers they lost 62-59.

Featured Image: Mean Green senior forward Michael Miller drives the lane for a lay up at the game against Florida International at The Star on March 13, 2019. Image by: Trevon McWilliams.

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Matt Suarez

Matt Suarez

Sports Editor

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