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ICYMI: Second-round NIT loss ends men’s basketball team’s season

ICYMI: Second-round NIT loss ends men’s basketball team’s season

ICYMI: Second-round NIT loss ends men’s basketball team’s season
March 22
14:11 2022

After an ill-fated bounce on a game-winner attempt by junior guard Tylor Perry, men’s basketball was eliminated in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament as it fell 71-69 to the University of Virginia in overtime Sunday night.

The loss ended the Mean Green’s historic season as the team won a single season program record of 25 games. Head coach Grant McCasland said he is going to miss practicing every day with the team.

“A credit to their heart and the will to win that they put into this,” McCasland said. “It’s an understatement to say these guys accomplished a lot. I would say arguably it’s the best team we’ve had here.”

Senior guard Mardrez McBride led the team in scoring for the second consecutive game, scoring 21 points including six 3-pointers. Perry and sophomore forward Abou Ousmane each finished with 16 points.

The Mean Green launched a late comeback to send the game to overtime, as they were down 55-49 with under five minutes in regulation. North Texas held the Cavaliers scoreless over the last 5:42 in the second half and tied up the game via an Ousmane hook shot and Perry 4-point play.

With 41 seconds left in overtime, North Texas trailed by four points. A 3-pointer from McBride and a pair of layups from Perry and senior forward Thomas Bell brought the deficit down to two points with 4 seconds left. Perry’s 3-point attempt to win the game bounced off the backboard and rim but did not fall in.

“We never quit fighting,” Perry said. “That’s the standard that has been set with [senior guard JJ Murray], TB and Drez. […] All we know is to keep fighting until the last buzzer goes off and I feel like that’s what we did.”

The two comebacks against Virginia were not the first of the season for the Mean Green which had road comebacks against Louisiana Tech University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham during the regular season, as well as an overtime win against Texas State University in the first round of the NIT.

“This group is resilient,” McCasland said. “Our guys trained in such a way that when it was at their biggest they were actually able to deliver. They were prepared for those moments.”

Perry made his first career start in a Mean Green uniform as sophomore guard Rubin Jones missed the game with a quad injury. Prior to the game, Jones had started all 31 contests for the Mean Green. His average of 31.6 minutes per game is the second-most on the team.

“It hurt not having Rubin,” Perry said. “I had to step into the starting lineup and play more minutes than I usually do. Injuries are going to happen and take a toll on you throughout the season.”

Bell and Murray both played their final collegiate basketball game. Bell put up 12 points, 12 rebounds and six assists while Murray had four rebounds and five assists.

On the season, Bell led the team with  7.1 rebounds per game and 85 assists. Murray tallied the most steals with 49 in 31 games. Both players started every game this season.

“We’re going to miss every day with them,” McCasland said. “I couldn’t imagine coaching a better group. They just kept doing things that people didn’t think they could do. I hate to see it end.”

Featured Image: Mardrez McBride and Thomas Bell sit on the bench before a game on Feb. 7, 2022. Photo by Kristian Freeman

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Tyler Luker

Tyler Luker

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