In another down to the wire affair, North Texas defeated UAB 68-61 to capture the NIT championship at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday. Andy Kennedy’s Blazers finished with a program record 29 wins (29-10). North Texas wound up at 31-7.
Possessions: 60. A tempo better suited to the pace of North Texas.
Offensive efficiency: North Texas 113, UAB 102
In a game featuring six lead changes, Uab trailed most of the night before battling back and eventually taking the lead. North Texas trailed by one with just over six minutes remaining. The Mean Green then embarked on a 16-8 game deciding run to earn the championship. North Texas posted a 44% offensive rebounding percentage leading to a 14-8 edge in second chance points. North Texas, led by Kai Huntsberry’s 21 points, placed thee in double figures. UAB had two in double digits with Jordan Walker leading the way with 21. Walker logged 40 minutes handing out a game-high six assists but was guilty of five turnovers, also a game-high.
Kenpom.com MVP: Tylor Perry. The North Texas senior was named the tournament’s MOP. Perry scored 20 points while coming up with five steals on the defensive end.
Notes: Each of the teams making the trip to Las Vegas for the NIT ‘Final Four’ seemed to be genuinely happy and honored to be there. No disrespect for the nation’s oldest post season tournament. Just a grateful feeling of still playing and competing for a national championship. Far different attitude of some high majors not going to the Big Dance and figuratively thumbing their noses at the NIT. I’m looking at you North Carolina.
What about North Texas ? It is a public research university located in Denton, Texas with an enrollment of 42,000. North Texas began in 1890 as Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute. Among the notable alumni are best selling horror writer Anne Rice, Pro Football Hall of Famer Mean Joe Greene who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Don Henley who played for the Eagles (the rock band not Philadelphia).
The NIT title was the fourth consecutive championship for North Texas. In 2020 and 2022 they won the Conference USA regular season championship. In 2021 they cut down the nets after winning the Conference USA Tournament and now, the NIT.
Walker finished the season with a program record 22.3 points per game and 736 points.
It was a first time trip to the NIT final for both programs. Interestingly, it was the fourth time the pair met this season. North Texas swept the two regular season meetings before losing to UAB in the Conference USA Tournament. That loss was North Texas’ last of the season as the Mean Green reeled off five straight en route to the NIT championship.
UAB’s most recent loss, prior to the NIT, was the Conference USA final as the Blazers fell to FAU.
Conference USA programs have two post season titles this March. Beside North Texas in the NIT, Charlotte captured the CBI. Now FAU is in the NCAA Final Four hoping to make it a trifecta.
That was fast. Less than 12 hours after the nets were cut down at Orleans Arena, it was announced on cbssports.com that North Texas coach Grant McCasland was headed to Texas Tech.