LAS VEGAS – The North Texas Mean Green claimed the 2023 NIT championship with a 68-61 win over UAB Thursday night.
UNT scored the first seven points and led 10-2 four minutes into the contest. The Blazers responded with 13 of the next 15 points to take the lead. The Mean Green countered with the next four points to retake the lead and built a 37-27 advantage at halftime.
UAB opened the second half on an 18-5 run to take a three-point lead. North Texas answered with the next seven points. The two teams then traded the lead over the next several minutes. Tylor Perry gave the Mean Green the lead for good with a 3-pointer with 6:22 remaining.
“It’s such a blessing to coach this group because they committed themselves to hanging together no matter what happens,” head coach Grant McCasland told ESPN’s Myron Medcalf postgame. “We got off to a good start. They came back and made some great threes to start the second half, took the lead. That’s what our team does. And what can you say about Tylor Perry.”
Perry scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half. Kai Huntsberry netted a team-high 21 points to go along with six rebounds. Aaron Scott was also in double figures with 14.
The Mean Green topped the Blazers in three of their four meetings this year but fell to them in the Conference USA semifinals.
“It means everything,” Perry said to Medcalf. “I felt like UAB took something from us not getting to the Dance. To be here with this group and my coach. I can’t explain the feeling.”
This victory is North Texas’ first NIT championship. It is the second postseason title during McCasland’s six-year tenure. The Mean Green also won the 2018 CBI.
UNT won a program-record 31 wins this season and finished the year 31-7.
Jordan Walker led UAB with 21 points and six assists. KJ Buffen also scored in double figures with 11 points and seven boards. The Blazers competed the year 29-10.
Conference USA moves to 18-2 this postseason. Florida Atlantic is in the Final Four this weekend. Charlotte won the CBI last week.