Javion Hamlet won league player of the year and it seems he is dead set on winning both post-season tournament player of the year awards. He won the league’s for his outstanding performance on the way to North Texas’ CUSA title and he scored 24 points — including a tremendous second half where he scored 8 straight at one point — as North Texas thoroughly controlled the matchup against the favored Purdue Boilermakers in the South’s 4-13 matchup.
Purdue came in looking to dominate with their superior size. Trevion Williams and Zach Edey were a 1-2 punch of size that head coach Matt Painter relied on for plenty of touches. Purdue also has a storied history of basketball, going to the Elite Eight as recently as the last time we had a tournament (2019).
North Texas meanwhile, had three total appearances and zero wins, the last appearance coming after winning the Sun Belt in 2010.
NT controlled the game, taking their time on offense and providing tough man-to-man defense coupled with the same game plan we saw against WKU: sagging off poor shooters and daring them to beat the Mean Green with outside shooting. Purdue shot 30% from distance and could not hold Hamlet all night, sacrificing one shooter for a better defender.
The Boiliermakers made an inevitable second half run, getting a steal and a score breakaway from both Williams and super frosh Jaden Ivey. They could not hit the free throws that would have given them the lead twice. NT’s Thomas Bell, who got a huge three vs WKU and then followed that with a game-sealing block vs WKU’s Taveion Hollingsworth came up with a block on Williams here, and then followed that with a big layup on him on the other end.
NT had a chance to win it twice in regulation but went into over time and dominated that period going away. In many respects NT looked like the better seed.
CUSA has been incredible in recent years against NCAA competition, going back to 2015, only ODU was a first-round loser. NT will face the winner of 5 Villanova and 12 Winthrop on Sunday in the second round.