LAS VEGAS – North Texas and UAB secured their spots in the NIT championship game with wins in the semifinals Tuesday night to set up a title game between two Conference USA teams.
Conference USA improved to 17-1 this postseason. It is now guaranteed to have the NIT champion, already has the CBI champion in Charlotte and could have the national champion with Florida Atlantic in the Final Four.
The Mean Green defeated Wisconsin 56-54, while the Blazers edged Utah Valley 88-86 in overtime.
In North Texas’ win, it held the Badgers scoreless over the final nine minutes of the contest and scored the game’s final 10 points. Wisconsin scored just 13 points in the second half against the nation’s best scoring defense. UNT allows 55.7 points per game.
The win is North Texas’ 30th on the season, which marks the program’s first 30-win season. McCasland improved to 11-3 in the postseason.
A trio of Mean Green players recorded double figures. Tylor Perry led the way with 16 points, five rebounds and three steals. Kai Huntsberry tallied 12 points, five assists and three steals. They both played all 40 minutes. Rubin Jones added 12.
In UAB’s victory, it led nearly the entire game. The Blazers scored the first eight points of the contest and held the lead all the way until the 8:13 mark of the second half, when the Wolverines took their first lead 62-61.
From there, they traded the lead. Utah Valley’s Trey Woodbury tied the game at 74 with 34 seconds left in regulation to force OT.
After the Wolverines scored the first two points of the extra session, the Blazers scored the next five and led the rest of the way.
Ty Brewer registered a career-high 30 points to go along with 12 rebounds for a double-double and five steals. Jordan Walker tallied 17 points, six assists and five rebounds. Eric Gaines scored 13 points, seven of which came in overtime.
UAB and North Texas have already squared off three times this season. The Mean Green won both regular-season meetings, while the Blazers prevailed by 10 in the CUSA semifinals.
The title game is set for Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. It will be broadcast on ESPN2.