ARLINGTON — There isn’t much in the world of college basketball that can slow North Texas guard Tylor Perry down — at least not for long.
Turns out, that includes the flu.
The senior tried to play on Saturday when the Mean Green took on Omaha and was a shadow of himself in a game UNT won easily. He was back at full strength just in time for UNT’s game Tuesday against UTA when the Mean Green needed him down the stretch in a 60-57 win.
Perry scored 22 points and hit a huge 3 late to help UNT hang on for a win over its Dallas-area rival at the College Park Center.
“We found a way, which is what championship teams do,” UNT coach Grant McCasland said. “They find a way in close games, especially on the road in tough environments.”
UTA (4-6) came into the game off a four-point loss to LSU. UNT (7-2) had played just one true road game this season at St. Mary’s and struggled.
The challenge of playing a solid team on the road was one UNT needed.
The Mavericks challenged UNT down the stretch and pulled within 53-50 with 3:08 left on a Brandon Walker 3.
UNT needed a few plays late to put the game away. The Mean Green went to Perry and saw him deliver. He buried a 3 with 1:16 left to put UNT up 56-50.
UTA cut its deficit to three two more times in the final minute, the first time on Shemar Wilson’s three-point play with 52.5 seconds left that cut UNT’s lead to 56-53. Kai Huntsberry answered with a layup for UNT.
Wilson scored again with 12 seconds left to pull the Mavericks within 58-55. UTA converted a Perry turnover into an Aaron Cash layup 9.8 seconds left and called a timeout after pulling within 58-57.
Perry hit two free throws and Kyron Gibson’s 3 at the buzzer bounced away.
The way he came through down the stretch was particularly gratifying for Perry after he scored a career-low two points on Saturday.
“I tried to gut it out for my teammates,” Perry said. “They showed up big on Saturday. It was good for us the way they came through.
I’m still a little congested, but I feel a lot better than I did.”
Huntsberry scored 11 points and was UNT’s only other player who finished in double figures in a defensive battle. Wilson led UTA with 16 points, while Cash added 11.
“It’s hard to win on the road,” UNT forward Aaron Scott said. “Our fans showed up, but it’s still tough.
“This was a good win for us.”
UNT was in a battle from the beginning and trailed 27-24 at halftime after the UTA went on a 6-0 run to end the half.
UNT responded and looked like it might run away after taking a 43-34 lead on Matthew Stone 3.
Stone was among a few players who saw more time than usual on a night the Mean Green were without point guard Rubin Jones.
Jones is still working his way back to full strength after offseason knee surgery.
“Rubin is day to day,” McCasland said. “We could have played him today. He was pretty irritated. We played him against Omaha. He said he didn’t feel right. We didn’t want to risk putting him out there. It’s moving in the right direction.”
The same could be said for Perry, who was feeling a whole lot better on Tuesday after battling the flu. He twisted his ankle against UTA and battled through that as well.
“When the game is on the Tylor knows how to deliver,” McCasland said. “He wasn’t full strength, and neither was Kai, but they helped us find a way to win.”
Picking up a win over a rival on the road was just what UNT wanted as it prepares for its Conference USA opener at UTSA on Dec. 22.
“This was a great experience,” Perry said. “We hadn’t really been tested on the road. This is what it’s going to be like in conference. We played against a well-coached team that is trying to find itself just like we are.”