North Texas Daily

Recap: Men’s basketball upsets No. 4-seeded Purdue, captures first NCAA tournament win ever

Recap: Men’s basketball upsets No. 4-seeded Purdue, captures first NCAA tournament win ever

Recap: Men’s basketball upsets No. 4-seeded Purdue, captures first NCAA tournament win ever
March 20
13:06 2021

INDIANAPOLIS-March 19, 2021 — Friday night was a historic one for the No.13 seed men’s basketball team as they defeated No. 4 seed Purdue University in a 78-69 overtime thriller for an opening-round win in the NCAA tournament.

With the win, North Texas (18-9, 9-5 Conference USA) secured its first NCAA tournament victory in program history. The Mean Green have appeared in the NCAA tourney three times before, most recently falling to Kansas State University in the 2010 tourney’s first round.

Senior guard Javion Hamlet led the way for North Texas. He tallied 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in 43 minutes played. Hamlet also scored eight of the team’s 17 points in overtime, hitting all six of his extra time free throws to help ice the game.

“I’ve been waiting on this opportunity my whole life, just to show the world who Javion Hamlet is,” Hamlet said. “When the lights get big like this, I love that.”

It was a back-and-forth game throughout as the Mean Green led by eight at halftime before Purdue (18-10, 13-6 Big 10 Conference) rallied in the second half to tie the game several times down the stretch and eventually send it to overtime. Key missed free throws by the Boilermakers prevented them from ever regaining the lead down the stretch. In fact, Purdue’s only lead lasted for roughly two minutes to start the game after their first made 3-pointer. 

After heading to the overtime, North Texas began the period on an 11-0 run over the first 4:33 before Purdue made a few 3-pointers and a dunk down the stretch as the Mean Green iced the game with free throws.

“We’ve been in hard-fought games since I’ve been here,” Hamlet said. “When I first got here, we couldn’t even close ‘em out. Just to see our team grow, calm down and give it anything we got coming down the stretch — We just pulled it out.”

Limiting turnovers was one key part of North Texas’ success in the win. The Mean Green average 13 turnovers per game this season but tied a season-low with eight turnovers against Purdue.

Three other key contributors were junior guard Mardrez McBride and seniors James Reese and Thomas Bell. McBride scored 16 points and made 4-of-6 3-pointers, while Bell scored the team’s first seven points and finished with 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Reese tallied 13 points, three steals and two assists.

“I always tell ‘em, y’all got to be aggressive,” Hamlet said. “I’m trying to get y’all guys shots, y’all are the ones that get me going. That’s what they’ve been doing, just knocking down big shots after big shots after big shots.”

Head coach Grant McCasland said Bell’s rebounding and defense were key in the win.

“Thomas Bell walling up at the rim has always been a tremendous part of what we do,” McCasland said. “The other thing is, he had three assists and no turnovers. He’s a decision-maker for us, he makes the right play. When you’ve got a guy like that that can make an open three and can play with composure in space and make the simple play, his utility is remarkable. He’s so competitive and his rebounds were unbelievable tonight when we needed ‘em.”

Although achieving the first NCAA tournament win in school history is obviously a historic accomplishment, Hamlet said the team is not satisfied with one win.

“It feels great,” Hamlet said. “But the job is not done yet.”

Up Next: Men’s basketball will face off with No. 5-seed Villanova University (17-6, 11-4 Big East Conference) in the Round of 32 on Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with tipoff set for 7:45 p.m. CT.

Courtesy Colin Mitchell

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John Fields

John Fields

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