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Recap: Men’s basketball out wills Louisiana Tech in gritty defensive battle, advances to Conference USA title game

Recap: Men’s basketball out wills Louisiana Tech in gritty defensive battle, advances to Conference USA title game

Recap: Men’s basketball out wills Louisiana Tech in gritty defensive battle, advances to Conference USA title game
March 12
20:41 2021

For its third win in three days, the men’s basketball team defeated Louisiana Tech University on Friday by a score of 54-48 and advanced to the Conference USA championship game.

Similar to Thursday night’s low-scoring matchup between North Texas (16-9, 9-5 C-USA) and Old Dominion University (15-8, 11-5), both the Mean Green and the Bulldogs (21-7, 12-4) struggled shooting the ball. North Texas shot 38.8 percent from the field while Louisiana Tech shot 32.1 percent.

It was the Mean Green’s defensive effort which gave them an advantage as they held the Bulldogs to 30 percent from the field and 10 percent from deep in the second half.

“No surprise we had to do it on the defensive end,” Head coach Grant McCasland said. “Just never felt like either team had very much too ’em to create any opportunities [offensively], so it was just going to be a matter of how many times you could stay engaged on the defensive end.”

To get to the title game, North Texas had to win three games in three days, including a quick turnaround from last night’s 9 p.m. tipoff to a 2 p.m. tip today. McCasland said the team’s consistent preparation allowed them to accomplish the feat.

“Their preparation for each game hasn’t been any different, that’s what you love,” McCasland said. “It’s not like you’re like, ‘Let’s be excited about where we’re at.’ You walk in the locker room afterwards, they’re excited but they’re like, ‘We didn’t come just for this one.’ There’s a real sense of urgency and grit in their approach. I just told ‘em, it’s such a joy to watch their competitiveness.”

Having scored four points in the first half, senior guard Javion Hamlet took over and scored 14 of North Texas’ 30 points after the halftime break. Through the Mean Green’s three tournament games, Hamlet is averaging 18 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game.

“It takes a guy like Javion Hamlet, who believes in you, to come in here and elevate the program like we want,” McCasland said. “I can’t say enough about what he and Zach Simmons were today to our team. They did what seniors are supposed to do and guys that win championships do.”

Junior guard Mardrez McBride had another key performance in the win, with his three 3-pointers being the team’s only made threes of the game. He finished with 11 points, two rebounds and two assists.

“We just got to have a lot of guts, we got to be real gritty every night,” Reese said. “We’ve had guys step up a lot. Drez, Thomas, J-Ham, I’m playing defense. It’s just everybody up and up, doing something that they usually don’t do.”

In advancing to the C-USA title game, the Mean Green will take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (20-6, 11-3 C-USA). In the two teams’ last meeting, North Texas defeated Western Kentucky late in the 2019 season to clinch the regular season C-USA title. McCasland said the team is more focused on itself, however, than its opponent.

“Honestly, at this point, you get in these games and you have to do what you do well,” McCasland said. “You have to figure out how you can put the way you play the game in the game. […] We’re not going to do anything different, we’re not going to put in secret plays, we just got to have a grittiness together and […] and find a way to do what you do a little better.”

Up Next: Men’s basketball will take on Western Kentucky University on Saturday at 8 p.m. with the C-USA title and an NCAA Tournament automatic bid on the line.

Featured Image: Redshirt senior Javion Hamlet runs the fastbreak against the University of Alabama-Birmingham on March 6, 2021. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

John Fields

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