Dominique Johnson made two clutch free throws and the North Texas men’s basketball team held off a late rally from Florida Atlantic to win 79-73 and advance to the second round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
North Texas (19-11, 11-7) moves on to play #5 seed Middle Tennessee Sunday at 3 p.m. from Hot Springs, Arkansas at Summit Arena.
After FAU (6-26, 2-16) came storming back late in the second half to cut the deficit to 75-73, Eric Tramiel grabbed a game-saving offensive rebound which led to Johnson’s clutch free throws. North Texas received a huge effort from point guard Josh White. The senior scored 23 points and was joined by 21 points from Tramiel.
The Mean Green now leads the all-time series with FAU 3-1 with all three victories coming at The upper Pit.
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North Texas shot an amazing 29-of-35 from the free throw line and Tramiel was a big part of that by connecting on 13-of-14.
Paul Graham III had helped lead the Owls with 18 of his team-high 23 points coming in the second half.
After FAU had cut the deficit to 43-36 late in the first half, North Texas’ reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week Adam McCoy scored two straight baskets including a baseline dunk to give the Mean Green a 47-36 halftime lead.
North Texas was aggressive in the first 20 minutes and the payoff came at the free throw line. The Mean Green connected on 14 of 17 from the charity stripe in the first half compared to just four attempts from the Owls.
FAU still managed to shoot 48 percent from the field in the first half and were led by the 13 points from Carlos Monroe.
With 6:04 left in the first half and NT leading 31-22, George Odufawa made the play of the night with a monstrous one-handed jam in the lane, forcing Mike Jarvis and FAU into a timeout.
White started off on fire for the Mean Green by making five of his first six shots for 13 points, including three consecutive three-point plays, to give North Texas an early 24-14 lead.