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Shooting barrage allows men’s basketball to cruise into CBI Finals

Shooting barrage allows men’s basketball to cruise into CBI Finals

North Texas faced off against Jacksonville State on Wednesday at the Super Pit in Denton, Texas., Wednesday, March, 21, 2018, Super Pit in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Shooting barrage allows men’s basketball to cruise into CBI Finals
March 21
22:11 2018

Throughout the first half of Wednesday’s semifinal game of the College Basketball Invitational, sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge carved up Jacksonville State University. Time after time, Woolridge shredded the defense with his precision passes to the rolling big man or the open shooter.

It is what he had done the whole season, but this game the shooters he was passing to could not seem to miss.

The Mean Green finished the game shooting 14-of-20 on 3-pointers and throttled the Gamecocks 90-68, advancing to the CBI Finals. The 70 percent from 3-point land is the fourth best in program history and headlined North Texas’ convincing win.

“The way we played defensively I thought fueled the way we played offensively,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “We’re playing with some confidence right now, and it’s fun to see our guys compete and prepare on such a short notice.”

Three games into this tournament, North Texas scored 90 or more points in every game. It has been the same offense, but with the emergence of junior guards Michael Miller and Jorden Duffy, McCasland and Woolridge have new weapons to work with.

This is the first time since 1998 that a North Texas team scored 90 or more points in three straight games against a Division I opponent.

“We’re making shots, making plays and sharing the ball,” sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart said. “Ryan’s been doing a good job all season of drawing two and looking for me or DJ or Duffy.”

Coming off of his 31 point game, Duffy scored 19 on 5-of-5 3-point shooting. The other 31 point scorer from the quarterfinal game was Smart who had a team-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field Wednesday night.

Woolridge finished the game with nine assists and 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting while sophomore guard DJ Draper pitched in 14 points on 4-of-5 3-point shooting.

“What we’ve been doing a good job of is getting good shots and staying patient and maybe not taking the first open three,” Draper said. “With four shooters or four guards out there, you know you can get another good look.”

Defensively, North Texas held the Jackrabbits to 36.8 percent shooting from the field and 30.4 percent from 3-point range.

Meanwhile, after shooting 70 percent in the first half, the Mean Green finished the game at 61.5 percent shooting overall.

North Texas scored 17 fast break points to Jacksonville State’s zero, and it helped open up the Mean Green’s offense early on.

“We just got stops,” Smart said. “They got one team offensive rebound [in the first half], and that got us out in transition, and in the half court we did slow it down and share the ball.”

Now, North Texas heads into the CBI Finals on one of their hottest offensive stretches of the season.

The Finals will be a best of three series starting on Monday with North Texas’ opponent to be determined Thursday night. McCasland knows the impact a CBI championship would have in his first season at North Texas.

“It says a lot about how our guys have gone from trying to play hard and do what we’ve asked them to do to believing we’re going to win,” McCasland said. “[A championship] would carry over to what we want to do which is play for championships every year. It would be a great start towards those goals.”

Featured image: North Texas faced off against Jacksonville State on Wednesday at the Super Pit in Denton, Texas., Wednesday, March, 21, 2018, Super Pit in Denton, Texas. Jake King

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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