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Mr. BURGESS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the University of North Texas Men's Basketball team for winning the 2023 National Invitational Tournament. Starting in 1916, the UNT Mean Green have a rich history. However, this year's accomplishment on the court is arguably the most exciting and meaningful.
On March 30, 2023, led by Coach Grant McCasland, the team completed their remarkable 31-7 season with the school's first ever NIT Tournament Championship. In doing so, the Mean Green successfully battled through five successive games, starting with dominating wins over Alcorn State and Sam Houston. They then advanced to the tournament semifinals with a chilling overtime win over Oklahoma State. The team then showed its grit to hold Wisconsin scoreless for over nine minutes in closing-out a final-four victory for the chance to redeem a Conference USA Tournament loss to the University of Alabama-Birmingham. They completed the run with a 68 to 61 NIT Championship game victory.
Led by NIT Most Outstanding Tournament Player Tylor Perry, Kai Huntsberry and Aaron Scott stepped-up to record double-digits as UAB unsuccessfully struggled to limit Perry on the court during the championship. Rubin Jones stepped-up with scoring and rebounds at critical points throughout the tournament, complimenting Moulaye Sissoko's domination of the backboard in each game and highlighted with his double-double in the victory over Wisconsin. A team accomplishment, the postseason opportunity and victory could not have happened without critical individual contributions throughout the season from Abou Ousmane, Jayden Martinez, Matthew Stone, Tyree Eady, Rasheed Browne, Christian Moore, Grayson Allo, Chris Morgan and Arsh Mattu.
The historic NIT Tournament Championship victory underscored the original strength of UNT's Conference USA schedule and set a new standard at a critical time for UNT's national profile. UNT became one of four C-USA teams setting national notice by either winning, or competing in at least the final four of the three major post-season college tournaments, as a final benchmark before moving up to join the American Athletic Conference this Fall.
The accomplishment is bittersweet, as it also marks the last game that Coach McCasland will be at the helm of the squad. UNT's President Dr. Neal Smatresk extended his sincerest thanks and best wishes to Coach McCasland and his family, recognizing that he `` . . . has been a great mentor and leader for the student athletes on our men's basketball teams for six seasons, and he has taken our program to great successes including this national championship run in the NIT.'' However, a strong foundation has already been set for the next stage, with longtime Assistant Coach Ross Hodge announced as the team's new head coach, ensuring that opponents in the new AAC can expect no relief from the suffocating defense experienced throughout the season by UNT's challengers.
I join Dr. Smatresk, the returning team members, the UNT student body and Alumni in looking forward to the next exciting accomplishment to come. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the 2022-2023 North Texas Men's Basketball coaches and team for representing their school and community so well. Best wishes to the team's seniors as they graduate, and we look forward to another opportunity to celebrate the next exciting year and championship.
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