North Texas Daily

Recap: Men’s basketball edges out Old Dominion, advances to semifinals in Conference USA tournament

Recap: Men’s basketball edges out Old Dominion, advances to semifinals in Conference USA tournament

Recap: Men’s basketball edges out Old Dominion, advances to semifinals in Conference USA tournament
March 12
01:00 2021

On what was a cold shooting night overall for both teams, the men’s basketball team found a way to win 61-55 over Old Dominion University and advanced to the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.

“It’s just what we’ve prepared for all year,” Senior forward Zachary Simmons said. “We’ve been battle tested. We’ve had close games, some of ’em didn’t go our way, but we have a very senior-led team. That’s kind of what it comes down to is guys just wanting to win.”

With the victory, the Mean Green (15-9, 9-5 C-USA) will face Louisiana Tech University (21-6, 12-4 C-USA) on Friday with a quick turnaround to a 2 p.m. tipoff. Having played each other twice during the regular season, the two squads split their series in a pair of close bouts.

“It’s always a challenge, but if there’s anything we’re prepared for its the short turnaround,” Head coach Grant McCasland said. “We’ve done that enough times. I like the fact that our guys at least know what it feels like to compete in a game that quick.”

It was a close game throughout with neither team leading by more than eight points.

Jumping out to an early advantage, Old Dominion (15-8, 11-5 C-USA) led 12-6 at the 15:18 mark and scored all of its first 12 points in the paint. After North Texas rallied to tie it at 16-all with 11:47 left in the half and 20-all at the 6:45 mark, the Monarchs again pulled ahead and held a 31-26 advantage at the half.

McCasland said Simmons was key in the team flipping the script in the second half to outscore the Monarchs 18-to-12 in the paint after Old Dominion led 22-6 in the lane for the first half.

“It’s all Zach Simmons, honestly, he started it for us,” McCasland said. “He just was super physical down there, we were able to throw it to him [and] he got a couple of baskets. That’s a senior for you, a guy that this means a lot to, that’s been to this tournament [and] experienced it.”

Following a back-and-forth stretch to start the second half, the Mean Green took a 40-39 lead at the 12:30 mark on a 3-pointer by junior guard Mardrez McBride and held it the rest of the way.

“We just stayed together throughout the whole [game], the good and the bad,” McBride said. “We just stayed together, went on a run and finished the game off.”

A key contributor in the win, McBride tallied 14 points and made 4-of-6 3-pointers in a season-high 38 minutes played.

“[McBride] really stepped up,” Simmons said. “We’ve been really counting on him, been talking to him and telling him ‘We need you.’ We need everybody on our team to get through this. He stepped up and played big today, not just offensively but even over the past two games grabbing rebounds, making those hard plays.”

Simmons added 13 points and seven rebounds himself, moving into 19th place in program history for career points and 9th for rebounds with the performance.

It was a breakout game for the junior college transfer, with 14 points being his highest total since scoring 21 in the team’s Nov. 26 season-opener against Mississippi Valley State University. With Hamlet and fellow senior James Reese shooting a combined 7-of-28 from the field, McBride’s scoring helped fill the gap and gave North Texas just enough offense to move past the Monarchs.

“My teammates believed in me all year,'” McBride said. “They just say ‘Be you.’ They just tell me to be myself and I displayed that tonight.”

Up Next: Men’s basketball will return to action against Louisiana Tech University on Friday at 2 p.m. in the C-USA tournament’s semifinals.

Featured Image: Senior guard James Reese drives to the rim against the University of Alabama-Birmingham on March 6, 2021. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

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