North Texas secures 1st NIT championship in C-USA showdown

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 30: (L-R) Christian Moore #3, Arsh Mattu #13, Matthew Stone #23, Chris Morgan #21, Moulaye Sissoko #14 and Jayden Martinez #24 of the North Texas Mean Green celebrate with the trophy after the team's 68-61 victory over the U

Kai Huntsberry scored 14 of his 21 points in the first half, Tylor Perry scored 14 of his 20 after halftime and North Texas beat fellow Conference USA foe UAB 68-61 on Thursday night to claim the program's first NIT championship.

It was the fourth NIT championship game to feature conference opponents — and the first in 20 years. Conference USA is now 18-2 in the NCAA postseason — with Charlotte winning the College Basketball Invitational title and FAU advancing to the Final Four.

Perry, the conference player of the year and NIT MVP, made a steal and a 3-pointer on a fast break to give North Texas the lead for good at 55-53 with 6:22 remaining. Aaron Scott extended it to 61-55 after making a high-arching layup and a jumper.

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UAB guard Jordan Walker was fouled on a 3-pointer with 1:48 remaining and he made two free throws to get within 63-59. North Texas had two shots on its next possession after an offensive rebound and Perry sank a jumper.

After UAB made two more free throws with 49.6 seconds left, Perry dribbled down the clock and hit a step-back jumper, with a foot on the 3-point line, for a 68-61 lead. UAB missed a 3-pointer and Huntsberry was fouled at 13.2 before securing it at the line.

North Texas won its second NCAA postseason championship under sixth-year head coach Grant McCasland. The Mean Green won the 2018 CBI title in his first season in Denton.

Scott finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for North Texas (31-7), which set a program record for wins in a season.

Walker scored 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting for UAB (29-10), which was in the NIT title game for the first time in program history. KJ Buffen added 11 points.

Javian Davis converted a three-point play with 12:43 left in the second half for UAB's first lead, 47-45, since it was 15-14. The Mean Green scored 22 of the first 30 second-half points.

It was the fourth meeting of the season between the teams — with North Texas winning two regular-season meetings before a matchup in the conference tournament semifinals.