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North Texas beats Purdue with overtime blitz

UNT controlled the pace for nearly all of regulation, then came up big in overtime nab their first ever tourney win

NCAA Basketball: North Texas at Purdue Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In the second mid-major-over-Big-Ten shocker of the day, the 13 seed North Texas Mean Green held on for a 78-69 overtime victory over 4 seed Purdue. They led for the final 44 minutes of the game.

The North Texas starting unit scored 71 of the team’s 78 points. Javion Hamlet had a fantastic performance, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Thomas Bell and Madrez McBride helped with 16 each, and James Reese added 13.

Despite controlling the pace for most of the night, UNT allowed Purdue to tie the game late in the second half on a couple of small spurts, led by the Boilermakers’ Trevion Williams and Jaden Ivey. The momentum seemed to be on Purdue’s side after a late put-back by Williams and a North Texas miss to end regulation, but North Texas was unfazed and dominated overtime, ending Purdue’s streak of three consecutive Sweet 16 appearances.

Forward Thomas Bell got off to a quick start for North Texas, scoring the Mean Green’s first seven points and nine of their first 11, including a difficult three-point-play that set the tone for the first half. Though Bell did not score again for the remainder of the first half, balanced scoring from several North Texas players helped maintain the lead. North Texas finished the first half at 48 percent shooting and 5-11 from deep.

Conversely, Purdue struggled to hit shots in the first 20 minutes, shooting just 30 percent from the field and 3-12 from three. Several times when Purdue was able to hit a shot, North Texas immediately answered with a basket of its own.

Most of the second half progressed exactly like the first. Ivey began to make plays using his athleticism, and Purdue was able to take advantage of its size inside, collecting several offensive rebounds and second-chance points. With each run, the crowd seemed to get louder.

But each time Purdue trimmed the lead to a possession, North Texas responded with poise to stretch the lead back out again. The Mean Green guards did a tremendous job of getting to the paint despite the size disadvantage, with Hamlet hitting his patented floater — a shot he takes more than anyone else in the country, according to Synergy Stats — several times as they stretched the lead back to eight points with just over six minutes to go.

Purdue then responded with a run that it appeared would finally put the Boilermakers in control, but missed free throws prevented them from ever taking the lead. Williams stole the ball at mid-court and posterized a UNT defender to cut the lead to 57-55 at the under-4 media timeout, but he missed the and-one opportunity. Purdue forced another turnover, and Ivey converted a difficult fast-break layup to tie the game, but missed his and-one opportunity as well. Later, Isaiah Thompson missed the front end of a one-and-one.

North Texas responded with two straight buckets from close range from McBride and Bell, but Williams scored two put-backs in a row to knot it at 61 with 21 seconds to play. North Texas had a final shot to win the game, but Reese’s bank shot from the left side came up short.

Despite Purdue’s momentum entering overtime, North Texas jumped all over Purdue in the extra period. After a Purdue miss, Bell opened the scoring with a three on the Mean Green’s first possession. Reese then forced a Boilermaker turnover, and Zachary Simmons rimmed in a floater to push the lead to five.

Simmons made perhaps the biggest defensive play of the game on the next possession, rejecting the larger Williams down low. Hamlet made it 68-61 with a floater, and North Texas never looked back.

Why not more for North Texas? They await either fellow mid-major Winthrop or hobbled Villanova in the next round. Either way, the Mean Green will have a shot to extend their improbable run into the Sweet 16.