FRISCO, TX — Overtime, large crowds, and smiles. The quarterfinal saw the arrival of the tops seeds in this tournament, and fans were treated to some good games. Winners: North Texas over Rice in a blowout, LA Tech in a tough battle vs WKU, Middle in OT vs UTEP, and UAB in a comfortable win over FAU.
We very nearly had an all-west division semifinal round. As it is, a three-of-four situation still highlights the quality of that side of the league. The east was down, and Middle took full advantage. They also escaped the fourth-best team in OT in order to face the West’s 2-seed, a team that is talented enough to be the top one.
NT 68 Rice 50
North Texas bullied their way into the third win over Rice this season, and it looked like the previous versions: dominating offense and suffocating defense. Scott Pera threw his head back and sighed somewhere around the 5-minute mark. Maybe he saw that Rice had nothing for NT, I know CR did.
The only drama was Mean Green head coach Grant McCasland’s arguing with the ref with NT up 20. The ref walked away, face red after arguing, “Jesus Christ!”.
La Tech 59 WKU 57
Tech dominated the game early, getting easy buckets on run outs. We saw something similar in the win over Marshall. This team has a seemingly never-ending supply of lengthy, athletic wings that can fly up the court and finish on the break, or knock down catch-and-shoot threes.
WKU is seemingly cursed in Frisco, as they didn’t get the luck to complete the comeback. Dayton McKnight, Josh Anderson, and Camron Justice combined for 51 of the 57 total, and Anderson had a ridiculous dunk late that seemed to be the exclamation point on a win. Instead, McKnight missed, Sharp rebounded, but missed two crucial free throws. There was a chance to heave it from half court later but the real opportunity was at that point.
Tech had to use a ton of energy, while North Texas walked to a win. Tech also has now played two games, to NT’s one. Watch that in the semifinal matchup.
MTSU 66 UTEP 59
Middle came out gunning, UTEP made a second half run, and these teams then sort of settled into a stalemate. Middle eventually won out. Overtime was always going to tax the UTEP legs, and that looked like what happened.
Middle were the most vulnerable of 1-seeds, and UTEP was peaking. You can imagine a scenario where UTEP doesn’t get down so much early and the ensuing run puts them up and they hang on. Maybe you wonder why Kennedy took the final shot in regulation rather than your star.
Meanwhile, how about Weston and his squad getting tough buckets in OT? Clutch stuff against a good defense.
UAB 80 FAU 66
It was a smooth start to the tournament for UAB. FAU didn’t look ready for the speed and physicality, or the precision of a Jordan Walker jumper. UAB got up early, held on to it, and then pulled away later.
The real work for UAB begins today, vs Middle. For FAU, they will be disappointed that they did not have the year that Middle is having, as it seemed like it was very possible. They can be happy about a win in Frisco, but they had nothing for UAB.