With less than five seconds remaining and North Texas (11-8, 5-1 Conference USA) down 50-49, junior guard Javion Hamlet drove the ball down the court and hit a game-winning floater as time expired to give the Mean Green a 51-50 win over Louisiana Tech (13-5, 4-2 C-USA).
This marks the team’s first win in Ruston, Louisiana since 1952, which happened to be the first time both teams played against each other.
“It’s really big … I haven’t won there in my three years here,” forward Zachary Simmons said. “To go in and get a win in a really tough environment against a really good team, especially at their home.”
The Mean Green were off to a good start in this game, as they jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead after a pair of 3-pointers by redshirt sophomore guard Umoja Gibson. He scored 13 points to go along with two steals in the first half alone.
North Texas eventually jumped out to a 29-16 lead with 3:55 remaining in the first half. But after a couple of stops and miscues offensively, Louisiana Tech was able to use it to their advantage and get senior guard Daquan Bracey on a scoring run which trimmed the lead 33-24 going into halftime.
Coming out of halftime, the Mean Green looked sluggish offensively, missing several shots and committing lots of turnovers (eight in the second half). It didn’t help that Louisiana Tech guard Amorie Archibald was getting hot from the floor, hitting three consecutive 3-pointers to cut the deficit 37-34. Archibald led all scorers in this game with 17.
After a fourth 3-pointer by Archibald with 9:55 remaining, the Bulldogs claimed their lead of the game, going up 44-43.
With Louisiana Tech gaining momentum from the home crowd, North Texas had to find ways to answer back. That’s when they found junior forward Zachary Simmons inside the paint with some much-needed points. Simmons led North Texas in second-half points with eight. He finished the game with 12 points to go along with four rebounds and a block.
One of the team’s goals going into the second half was trying to feed Simmons in the paint so it could open up the rest of the offense.
“The guys were giving me the ball and coach [McCasland] said he needed me to score down low,” Simmons said. “They stopped doubling like they were in the first half, so I felt like it was a point of emphasis for us and we had really great spacing.”
With North Texas leading 49-48 with 4:09 left, both teams would go scoreless for minutes straight.
With less than 20 seconds remaining after a North Texas miss, Archibald drove to the paint and converted on a layup attempt while being fouled with 5.4 seconds remaining in the game. Archibald, who came at the line shooting 89.2 percent, missed the ensuing free throw leaving the Bulldogs with a one-point lead.
After Louisiana Tech committed a pair of intentional fouls to take time off the clock, North Texas had 4.3 seconds remaining with no timeouts left. That’s when Hamlet inbounded the ball to junior forward Thomas Bell who returned it to Hamlet and the 6-foot-4-inch point guard took the ball full court and finished with a left-handed floater going to his right as time expired.
“We always work on that in practice,” Hamlet said. “I just went down there and my teammates helped me make a play … I knew I got it off in time.”
Hamlet finished the game with eight points and four assists.
With North Texas being involved in multiple close games early in the season, including a conference loss to Western Kentucky after being up in the first half, Hamlet felt great that the team could finally close one out against a good team.
“We’ve been in this position so many times and just to come out on top feels good,” Hamlet said. “But he haven’t won anything yet, so we’re just gonna keep getting better each and every day.”
North Texas has now won its fifth straight game and is currently tied with Western Kentucky for first in C-USA with a 5-1 record.
Next Up: North Texas will return home Monday on Jan. 20 to host Rice at 7 p.m.
Featured Image: Redshirt junior Javion Hamlet dribbles the ball while attempting to pass on Jan. 18, 2020. Image by Ryan Cantrell