For the second time in four years, the University of North Texas finds themselves in the NCAA tournament.
The Mean Green secured their invitation to the tourney by clinching the Sun Belt conference championship in their thrilling 66-63 victory over the Trojans of Troy Tuesday night.
ESPN2 had the call and the game was intense from the get go.
Eric Tramiel cashed in a double-double as his ten rebounds were accompanied by twenty points, which earned the only starting Eagle senior the MVP for the tournament. The award for the king of the boards, however, goes to George Odufuwa. The 6’8″ post grabbed 17 off the glass, proving he deserved his election to the all-tournament team.
Despite being down 40-38 at the half, UNT’s Eagles would not go down without a fight. They came out strong, stealing the lead away, as numerous shots from behind the arc by Tristan Thompson and Colin Mangrum flew straight and true.
Up by as many as eight at one point, UNT appeared to be in total control. After a few unlucky bounces and some costly turnovers by the Eagles, however, the Trojans pulled ahead as Troy senior Antuan Jones pulled down a rebound and banked the ball in for the second chance points, bringing the score to 63-63 with just seconds to play.
Josh White brought the ball down the court, his face a picture of sheer determination. At one point, White had a series of turnovers and mistakes, and Coach Jones even took him out, substituting freshman, Alzee Williams, who cashed in four quick points in his short time on the court. When it comes down to it, though, in the clutch, there is none better than Josh White. As he crossed the defender over, everything seemed to move in slow motion. White elevated in such a way that ESPN later compared it to Kobe Bryant’s game winning shot. As his body flew through the air, it seemed as if the entire gym went silent. The ball rattled around the rim and slowly dropped through the net and the Mean Green nation went ballistic.
The Trojans put on a press and White was fouled bringing the ball up the court. The junior point guard, called “J Dub” by UNT’s student section, stepped up to the line to shoot two. Though the Trojan fans screamed at the top of their lungs, White seemed as if he stood in perfect silence. After a quick glance at his fellow students with their Eagle claws held high in the air, he knocked down the first free throw, but missed the second.
With twelve seconds left on the clock, there was still plenty of time for Troy to answer. They rushed down the court and, as guard Michael Vogler went up for a lay-up, George Odufuwa showed up. The Mean Green forward stuffed Vogler and the ball bounced off the Trojan player and rolled out of bounds.
The scoreboard read seven seconds as the ball was passed to Josh White. He dribbled away from defenders as the final seconds ticked away.
Expected by ESPN to be seeded around 14th or 15th in the “Big Dance”, UNT fans are ecstatic to find that the Mean Green will most likely be playing in either New Orleans or Oklahoma City. After some of them drove to Hot Springs, Arkansas and back three days in a row, a trip like that will be nothing.