Kai Huntsberry had 21 points and six rebounds to lead second-seeded North Texas to its first NIT title in school history with a 68-61 victory over fourth-seeded UAB on Thursday in Las Vegas.
Tylor Perry scored 20 points, including 14 in the second half, and added five steals for the Mean Green (31-7), who ended the winningest season in school history with victories in eight of their last nine games. Aaron Scott finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
North Texas shot 26 of 57 (45.6 percent) from the field, including 6 of 22 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range. The Mean Green outrebounded the Blazers 36-31.
Jordan “Jelly” Walker had 21 points and six assists for UAB (29-10), which ended its winningest season in school history by losing for just the second time in its past 14 games.
KJ Buffen chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds, while Trey Jemison finished with six points and seven rebounds for the Blazers.
UAB shot 16 of 45 (35.6 percent) from the field, including 5 of 16 (31.3 percent) from beyond the arc.
However, the Blazers went 24 of 31 from the free-throw line, while the Mean Green went 10 of 11.
The Mean Green’s victory continues what has been an impressive postseason for Conference USA. With Charlotte winning the CBI on March 22, the league has a chance to sweep all three postseason tournaments if Florida Atlantic wins its first NCAA Tournament title.
The Blazers opened the second half on a 14-4 run to erase North Texas’ 10-point halftime advantage when Walker’s free throw tied the game at 41 with 15:46 remaining.
After the Blazers took a 49-45 edge on Walker’s layup with 10:44 left, the Mean Green responded with a 10-4 run to take a 55-53 advantage it wouldn’t relinquish on Perry’s 3-pointer with 6:22 to go.
After UAB closed to within 28-25 on Ledarrius Brewer’s two free throws with 2:41 left in the first half, the Mean Green closed on a 9-2 run to take a 37-27 halftime advantage.
North Texas defeated the Blazers for the third time this season. The Mean Green swept a pair of regular-season meetings before falling to UAB in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.
–Field Level Media