UNT sends message in dominating win over Rice in C-USA opener – Denton Record Chronicle

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Sunny skies. Gusty winds in the morning. Much colder. High 39F. Winds NNW at 20 to 30 mph..
A mostly clear sky. Low 21F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: January 2, 2022 @ 2:06 am
North Texas guard Tylor Perry (5) drives towards the basket, while being defended by Rice guard Travis Evee (3) at the Super Pit on Saturday.
UNT coach Grant McCasland calls out plays during a win over conference foe Rice on Saturday.

North Texas guard Tylor Perry (5) drives towards the basket, while being defended by Rice guard Travis Evee (3) at the Super Pit on Saturday.
UNT coach Grant McCasland calls out plays during a win over conference foe Rice on Saturday.
North Texas wanted to send a reminder to the rest of Conference USA at the beginning of league play that it intends to be a factor in the conference race again this season.
That was just what the Mean Green did on Saturday in a 75-43 runaway win over Rice at the Super Pit.
UNT won the C-USA tournament last year and went on to upset Purdue in the NCAA tournament. Most of the key players from that team are long gone.
Losing players like Javion Hamlet, the conference tournament MVP, was the reason UNT dropped all the way to sixth in the C-USA preseason poll.
The Mean Green believe they are a whole lot better than that and took another step toward proving it while blowing out Rice for their sixth straight win.
“It was good to send a message,” guard Tylor Perry said. “That was a big emphasis to let the league know that we aren’t going anywhere. We’re here to stay.”
That certainly has appeared to be the case in the early stages of the season. UNT (8-3) posted a host of impressive wins while facing a tough nonconference schedule — a run highlighted by a win at Wichita State.
Rice (7-5) isn’t expected to be among the elite teams in C-USA and didn’t look the part against UNT, which was determined to show that it belongs in that category.
The Mean Green’s plan to move toward that goal against Rice was simple — limit the Owls from the 3-point line and dominate the glass. UNT accomplished both goals, the latter in particularly impressive fashion.
UNT pulled down a whopping 28 offensive rebounds on its way to corralling 56 rebounds overall.
“That was the focus, to crash the glass,” UNT guard Mardrez McBride said. “They’re not a good defensive rebounding team. We put our will into it and were aggressive.”
Abou Ousmane and Aaron Scott each grabbed 10 rebounds, while Thomas Bell added nine, including seven on the offensive end. UNT converted those offensive boards into 23 second-chance points.
UNT put an emphasis on offensive rebounds in practice leading up to a game between teams coming off long breaks due to COVID-19 issues. The Mean Green hadn’t played since Dec. 18, while Rice had been off since Dec. 16.
UNT coach Grant McCasland’s concern going into the game was that that Mean Green might not be as sharp as usual offensively.
“I wasn’t planning on us missing many shots, but when you do, how are you [going to] make up for it?” McCasland said. “Offensive rebounding is one area we haven’t been great in. That completely changed tonight.”
UNT was just as effective when it came to limiting Rice from the 3-point arc. The Owls came into the day averaging 11.4 made shots from 3-point range per game.
Rice didn’t get off a shot from deep until Travis Evee missed at the 5:55 mark of the first half and didn’t make one until Carl Pierre connected with 1:11 left in the half.
The Owls went just 3-for-14 from deep for the game.
“We put an emphasis on the way we defended the line and limited them,” McCasland said. “We didn’t let them get them off. Every possession was about how do we make them shoot inside the arc.”
Quincy Olivari hit two of Rice’s 3s and led the Owls with eight points.
That wasn’t nearly enough to keep Rice within striking distance of UNT, which had three players finish in double figures. Perry came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points. McBride added 17 and Rubin Jones 11.
UNT broke the game open with an 11-2 run early in the first half and led 36-20 at halftime.
The Mean Green were up 10-9 when Perry hit a pair of 3s to spark UNT’s run. Mardrez hit another three to close the burst that put the Mean Green up 21-11.
UNT continued to pour it on the rest of the night and set up what promises to be one of the key games early in the league season on Thursday when they host UAB.
The Blazers were the favorite to win C-USA in the league’s preseason poll and have looked the part while running out to a 12-3 start. UAB hammered UTSA 87-59 on Saturday to move to 2-0 in C-USA play.
“If you want to win conference championships, you have to win home games,” McCasland said. “Two years ago, we lost one and won the league. Last year we lost three and didn’t. We have a chance to defend our court against UAB on Thursday.”
UNT sent a message to the rest of C-USA heading into that game that it intends on defending its court and making a run at the league title again this season.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
North Texas 75, Rice 43
RICE (7-5, 0-1) – Fielder 2-7 1-2 5, Evee 1-2 4-4 6, Olivari 3-7 0-0 8, Pierre 3-8 0-1 7, Mullins 0-5 2-9 2, McBride 1-4 0-2 2, Poteat 1-3 3-4 5, Sheffield 2-3 1-1 5, Hutchins 1-2 1-2 3, Abercrombie 0-2 0-0 0, Geron 0-1 0-0 0. Moffat 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-44 12-25 43.
NORTH TEXAS (8-3, 1-0) – Bell 0-7 1-2 1, Ousmane 4-12 0-0 8, McBride 7-15 0-2 17, Murray 2-3 0-0 5, Jones 5-9 0-1 11, Perry 6-16 2-2 18, Scott 3-6 2-3 8, Simmons 0-0 0-0 0, Zephir 1-3 0-0 2, Wright 1-1 2-2 5. Totals 29-74 7-12 75.
Halftime – UNT 36-20 Three-point goals – Rice 3-14 (Evee 0-1, Olivari 2-2, Pierre 1-4, Mullins 0-3, Sheffield 0-1, Abercrombie 0-2, Geron 0-1) UNT 10-31 (Bell 0-1, McBride 3-8, Murray 1-1, Jones 1-5, Perry 4-11, Scott 0-1, Browne 0-2, Zephir 0-1, Wright 1-1) Fouled out – none Rebounds – Rice 30 (Sheffield 5) UNT 56 (Two tied, 10) Assists – Rice 7 (Three tied, 2) UNT 12 (Perry 5) Total fouls – Rice 17, UNT 23. A – 2,400.
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