Digging through a bunch of layers is needed to explain what happened in North Texas’ 82-79 double overtime Conference USA victory over UAB on Thursday night in Denton, Texas.
Both teams had chances to win before the outcome was finally decided. Both teams made big shots and big mistakes. Both walked off the court feeling they did what it took to win.
UAB head coach Andy Kennedy stopped quickly at one particular box score category during his postgame radio appearance with David Crane.
“We go for 5 for 10 at the free throw line, have a chance to really seal it at the end of regulation, miss a big front end,” Kennedy said. “They go 23 for 25. Credit to them. When you got a team, especially at home, when they go plus-18 at the free-throw line. It’s going to be tough to overcome.”
Going into the game, UAB (17-8 overall, 8-6 C-USA) was third in the country in free throw attempts (24.5) and free throws made (18.3) per game.
“We just couldn’t close it, couldn’t make the free throws that we need when we got there,” Kennedy said. “We come in averaging about 18 free throws a game, top 10 in the country. We make five in double overtime, something doesn’t make sense.”
One of the biggest misses of the night came with 21 seconds left in regulation and UAB clinging to a 62-61 lead. Jordan “Jelly” Walker, an 84.4 percent free throw shooter coming into the game, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 situation, giving North Texas (20-5 overall, 11-3 C-USA) a chance at winning with a bucket. Aaron Scott failed to score on the baseline drive, but UAB was whistled for a foul with 2.5 seconds left. Scott missed the first free throw but hit the second to force overtime.
In the first extra period, UAB jumped out a 67-62 lead following a 3-pointer by Walker and a short jumper by Ledarrius Brewer. North Texas bounced back and eventually held a 3-point lead with less than 10 seconds remaining. KJ Buffen stepped up for UAB and nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner with just under seven seconds left, and the teams went to another overtime.
The Mean Green’s Kai Huntsberry had eight points in the second overtime, including four free throws in the final 22 seconds. Walker had a good look at a 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key in the final seconds but hit the front rim.
“They made a few more plays than us, and they crushed us at the free throw line,” said Kennedy, whose team has lost five one-possession games in conference play.
The Brewer brothers – Ty and Ledarrius – were big for UAB, combining for 21 points with each hitting a pair of 3-pointers. Walker had a team-high 20 points, hitting 8 of 20 overall from the field and 4 of 13 3-pointers, to go with four assists, two rebounds a steal and two turnovers.
UAB was outrebounded, 39-32, and lost the second chance points, 17-10. It’s not recorded in the box score, but the Mean Green did a better job of getting to loose balls.
“This team, man, I call it ball-getters and balls bouncing off our hands,” Kennedy said. “I bet we had 15 of them. I should be used to it now, 25 games into it. It’s really been our issue all season. We got to be able to make some tough plays. I thought our guys fought, man, really fought. We just didn’t make the plays.”
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