Saturday Conference Tournament Primer

Basketball player
Basketball player | Image by Melinda Nagy/Shutterstock

Friday night was tough for several college basketball teams as they were eliminated from their conference tournaments.

North Texas was the first team from the Lone Star State to play, taking on reigning Conference USA champion Florida Atlantic in the American Athletic Conference Tournament at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.

The Mean Green got off to a slow start but cut the deficit to five by halftime and dictated the pace in the second half to make things challenging for the Owls. However, Florida Atlantic center Vladislav Goldin took advantage of mismatches throughout the game to score 21 points, and guards Alijah Martin and Johnell Davis made some clutch plays down the stretch to lead Florida Atlantic to a 77-71 win.

“Obviously, we fully intended on winning this game and playing tomorrow,” a visibly emotional UNT head coach Ross Hodge told the media postgame. “But like we talked about in the locker room just now, the thing that you will miss the most — obviously, you want to compete, and you want to win at the highest level, which we all do — but really, at this time of year, you’re just looking to try to find one more day to watch a film together, one more meal, one more film session, and I hate that we won’t be able to do that, but I’m extremely grateful for our group.”

Houston and Texas Tech battled in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City at the same time as the UNT game. The Red Raiders were within three points at halftime but gave up 50 points to the Cougars in the second half and lost 82-59, sending Houston to the Big 12 Championship game on Saturday night.

The Cougars awaited the winner of Baylor and Iowa State. An early barrage of three-pointers opened up a 9-1 lead for Iowa State, and the Cyclones eventually pushed the margin to double-digits despite Baylor’s best efforts in the second half, making the Bears the second Texas team eliminated in the Big 12 that night with a 76-60 final score.

Texas A&M also played on Friday night after improving their chances of making the NCAA Tournament with a win over Ole Miss on Thursday. The Aggies once again strengthened their resume — knocking off Kentucky 97-87. A&M’s starting backcourt combined for 64 points in the win.

UT-Arlington is also playing for a conference championship after outlasting Tarleton State 87-84 thanks to a Brandyn Talbot three-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) semifinals.

Here is where that leaves things for Texas teams entering Saturday.

Big 12 Championship: Houston vs. Iowa State, 5 p.m. CT

SEC Semifinal: Texas A&M vs. Florida, 25 minutes after the conclusion of Auburn vs. Mississippi State

WAC Championship: UT-Arlington vs. Grand Canyon, 10:30 p.m. CT

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