North Texas wins NIT title, coach leaves for Texas Tech

North Texas Coach Grant McCasland celebrates with his players after a win over Wisconsin in the NIT semifinals. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Grant McCasland was hired as Texas Tech’s new coach Friday, a day after his University of North Texas Mean Green won the NIT title to wrap up the school’s first 30-win season.

North Texas was 135-65 in six seasons under McCasland, who has a master’s degree from Texas Tech. The Mean Green were 31-7 this season, which came a year after they had first broken the school record by winning 25 games.

The NIT title was North Texas’ second NCAA postseason championship under McCasland. The team won the 2018 College Basketball Invitational title in his first season in Denton.

During his time on the Lubbock campus while getting his master’s degree, McCasland served as Texas Tech’s director of basketball operations for coach James Dickey from 1999-2001. That was after McCasland got his undergraduate degree from Baylor, where he was listed as a 5-foot-9 walk-on player who got into 47 games over four seasons. He later was an assistant coach for the Bears.

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The 46-year-old McCasland replaces Mark Adams, who announced his resignation from his alma mater shortly after Texas Tech finished its season 16-16 with a loss in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament on March 8. Adams was suspended by the school from that game after making racially insensitive comments toward one of his players the previous week.

While Texas Tech’s inquiry determined that Adams’ comments were unintentional and an isolated incident, the coach said he stepped down because he and the university felt the incident had become a distraction for the program.

In Thursday night’s NIT championship game in Las Vegas, North Texas’ Kai Huntsberry scored 14 of his 21 points in the first half and Tylor Perry scored 14 of his 20 after halftime as the Mean Green beat fellow Conference USA foe UAB 68-61 to claim the program’s first NIT title.

It was the fourth NIT championship game to feature conference opponents — and the first in 20 years. Conference USA is now 18-2 in the NCAA’s 2023 postseason — with Charlotte winning the College Basketball Invitational title and FAU advancing to the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Tournament.

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Perry, the conference player of the year and NIT Most Valuable Player, made a steal and a 3-pointer on a fast break to give North Texas the lead for good at 55-53 with 6:22 remaining. Aaron Scott extended it to 61-55 after making a high-arching layup and a jumper.

UAB guard Jordan Walker was fouled on a 3-pointer with 1:48 remaining and he made two free throws to get within 63-59. North Texas had two shots on its next possession after an offensive rebound and Perry sank a jumper.

After UAB made two more free throws with 49.6 seconds left, Perry dribbled down the clock and hit a step-back jumper, with a foot on the 3-point line, for a 68-61 lead. UAB missed a 3-pointer and Huntsberry was fouled at 13.2 before securing it at the line.

The game was the fourth meeting of the season between the teams — with North Texas winning two regular-season meetings before losing a semifinal matchup, 76-69, in the conference tournament.