Saturday’s Conference USA championship game had all the ups, downs, and drama you could ask for in a game where an NCAA Tournament bid was on the line.
In the end, Western Kentucky came up short to North Texas 61-57 in overtime.
The Mean Green started the game on a 17-0 run before a Josh Anderson dunk finally put the Hilltoppers on the scoreboard at the 14:01 mark of the first half.
North Texas took a 34-23 advantage into halftime.
In the second half, Western Kentucky had all the momentum for the first 18 minutes, taking their first lead at 40-39 on a Charles Bassey free throw with 9:08 remaining.
The Hilltoppers increased their advantage to 48-41 with 2:57 remaining as North Texas struggled from the field, scoring just seven points in the half up to that point.
However, the Mean Green finished on a 7-0 run that sent the game into overtime. A stretch in the final two-and-a-half minutes highlighted by a Javion Hamlet layup, a Zachary Simmons layup, and a Mardrez McBride three-pointer with :22 remaining.
In overtime, both teams traded scores and were tied at 57 when a Javion Hamlet runner gave North Texas a 59-57 advantage with :14 remaining.
Western Kentucky’s last gasp came on a Taveion Hollingsworth drive to the basket, but he lost the ball on a layup attempt with four seconds remaining.
James Reece’s two free-throws iced the game for North Texas, who will advance to the NCAA Tournament with a 17-9 record.
Hamlet led the Mean Green in scoring with 20 points, McBride had 13, and Simmons chipped in with 12.
Western Kentucky was led in scoring by Josh Anderson with 14. Charles Bassey added 13 points and 11 rebounds while Jordan Rawls had 11.
For the Hilltoppers, now 20-7 on the season, they now wait to see if they will get in as an at-large team on Selection Sunday.
This is the third straight C-USA Championship game loss for Western Kentucky. In 2018, Marshall defeated WKU 67-66 and in 2019, Old Dominion handed a 62-56 loss.
Published: 2021-03-14 05:16:44
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