DENTON, Texas – North Texas shot 56 percent from the field and knocked down 12 3-point baskets to post a 96-67 victory at home over the Mercer Bears in the quarterfinal round of the College Basketball Invitational on Monday night on the Mean Green's home floor.
Mercer (19-15) was unable to get its offense going for much of the night as the Bears hit just 36 percent from the floor and made just 5-of-25 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. Senior guard Jordan Strawberry led Mercer in scoring with 25 points, connecting on 9-of-18 field goal attempts, while senior post man Desmond Ringer turned in a double-double performance with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
UNT (17-17) was led by Roosevelt Smart and Jorden Duffy, both of whom scored 31 points apiece. Smart also grabbed 11 rebounds.
North Texas took a 3-2 lead at the 18:23 mark of the first half and never trailed the remainder of the game. The Mean Green were red hot from the field, and following an 11-4 run, opened up a 23-10 lead with 11:50 left in the half. Leading 30-20 at the 7:42 mark, North Texas proceeded to go on a 12-0 run over the next five minutes to extend the lead to 42-20.
Mercer's Strawberry tried to keep the Bears in the game with 14 first-half points and Mercer went into the locker room trailing 47-31 at the break.
UNT was torrid shooting the basketball in the first half, connecting on 16-of-33 field goals (48.5 percent), including 7-of-17 from 3-point land. The Mean Green's Smart led all scorers with 18 first-half points. Mercer, on the other hand, was cold offensively, as the Bears shot only 32.3 percent from the field (10-of-31) and 3-of-11 (27.3 percent) from behind the 3-point arc in the opening 20 minutes.
North Texas started fast the second half, going up 61-36 at the 16:47 mark. Mercer then made its best run of the game, scoring 11 unanswered points to trim the lead to 61-47 on a pair of free throws by Ringer with 12:45 remaining. The Mean Green proceeded to go on an 8-0 run of their own to go back up by 22 at 69-47 and the Bears were battling uphill the rest of the contest.
Ria'n Holland saw his string of 17 straight games scoring in double figures this season snapped. The senior guard, who returned last week against Grand Canyon from a hand injury he suffered Jan. 18 on the road at VMI, tallied just two points on the night. He scored in double figures in 44 of his 50 career games as a Mercer Bear.
Mercer is now 9-7 in postseason tournament games and is 2-2 in CBI tournament games. The Bears made their sixth postseason tournament appearance in the past seven seasons.