The North Texas Mean Green has won the 2023 National Invitational Tournament (NIT), securing the program’s first national postseason basketball tournament championship.
UNT avenged its Conference USA tournament loss and defeated conference rival UAB for the third time this season to win the championship game on Thursday night.
“It means everything, man,” North Texas guard Tylor Perry told the media after the game. “I can’t put it into words, this feeling. You can never explain what it feels like, to win a championship, cutting the nets down. And to be able to do it with this group, it’s unbelievable. We[‘re] in the history books forever. Can’t take this from us.”
North Texas jumped out to a 7-0 lead and used a late first-half run to lead by double digits at the break.
KJ Buffen and Jordan Walker led a UAB surge in the second half, taking the lead with 12:39 remaining. However, Perry stepped up once again for the Mean Green, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the second half.
Leading by four with 24 seconds left, Perry got the ball on the wing, crossed over his defender, and nailed a stepback jumper to clinch the game. UAB failed to cut into the deficit, and Kai Huntsberry hit a free throw to seal it.
“I think it’s been well-documented over the last — especially over the last week, the strength in Conference USA,” UAB head coach Andy Kennedy said in his postgame press conference. “We have had four battles with them, and most all of them have been just like this where it comes down to the team that makes the most plays, and North Texas made most plays tonight, and ultimately they deserved the Championship.”
Walker led UAB with 21 points.
Huntsberry also had 21 for the Mean Green, and Perry was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
North Texas becomes the second Conference USA team to win a tournament this postseason, and Florida Atlantic could give the conference a third by winning the NCAA Tournament.
“The talent throughout the league is crazy this year,” Perry remarked. “So many guys could do so many different things, and I feel like we had one of the best leagues in the country. It just shows what this league was capable of doing in this postseason, and you know, a lot of respect for all the coaches and players throughout the year for what they did, and you know, it prepared us for moments like this.
“And I’m rooting for FAU. Hopefully, they can go get it done. We wish we were there but you know, they are representing, and like I said, I couldn’t be more proud for them.”
Since the game ended, reports have indicated that UNT head coach Grant McCasland will be the next head coach at Texas Tech. McCasland spent six seasons in Denton, leading the Mean Green to three conference titles, its first NCAA Tournament win, and an 11-3 postseason record.
Associate head coach Ross Hodge is expected to replace him at UNT.