North Texas Daily

Basketball coaches work towards improvement after first seasons

Basketball coaches work towards improvement after first seasons

April 09
21:57 2013

Audra Stamp / Staff Writer

After their first head coaching seasons at UNT, both men’s head basketball coach Tony Benford and women’s head coach Mike Petersen were disappointed with their teams’ overall losing records. They hope they can make a statement next season in the switch to Conference USA.

The women’s basketball team lost some close games but discovered some talent in its younger players. The men’s team was plagued with injuries, sidelining some of its star guards and caused for some inconsistency on the court, but it hopes the next season will allow it to have a full and healthy team.

“I think we got better as the year went on, I think we accomplished a lot,” Petersen said. “We clearly didn’t get everything done that we wanted to from a win-loss perspective.”

The women’s team has struggled for the last seven seasons. It hasn’t seen a winning season since the 2005-2006 team finished 19-9 overall. This season the team finished 11-19 and 10-10 in the Sun Belt Conference.

Petersen is the third coach in three years for the women’s team after Shanice Stevens was fired following the 2010-2011 campaign, and Karen Aston left UNT for the head coaching job at the University of Texas last year. Junior guard Laura McCoy said she had to adjust to the different coaching styles.

“For the last three years it’s been something different, we’ve had to change our system,” McCoy said. “As far as coach Karen and coach Petersen, Petersen’s a little more calm and relaxed, but they both play a fast-paced game of basketball.”

Although the team proved it could compete with anyone, it struggled with consistency, Petersen said. In nine of its 19 losing efforts, UNT lost by five or less, and in 16 of its 30 games played the Mean Green led at halftime.

The men also had a disappointing season finishing with a 12-20 record. Benford knew there were added expectations from fans to produce a winning season like the previous season when, under head coach Johnny Jones, the team finished 20-14 and lost in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Jones left following that season to take the head coaching job at Louisiana State University.

“It was like we had three or four different teams during the year because we’d have guys in and out of the line up with injuries,” Benford said. “I feel like we failed to develop any kind of continuity.”

Five players missed significant game time, and three of them were lost all season due to injury. UNT was ranked third in the nation for games lost to injury with 82 games missed in total.

Missing many starting guards, the team struggled from behind the three-point line, shooting only 29 percent. All-American sophomore forward Tony Mitchell scored an average of 14.7 points his freshman season, but averaged only 13 points last season. Benford found a new leading scorer in sophomore guard Jordan Williams, who led the team with 14.2 points per game.

Petersen lost only one senior – forward Sara Stanley – and the team hopes his coaching experience will lead to a conference championship.

Next season, Benford will have to rebuild as four senior forwards – Roger Franklin, Justin Patton, Jacob Holmen and Niko Stojiljkovic – are graduating, Mitchell has elected to enter the NBA draft, and freshman guards Clarke Overlander and P.J. Hardwick have both requested release from their scholarships. Those players combined for 3,785 minutes on the court this season.

Despite the new look, Benford is excited to have some strong shooting guards healthy and back on the court later this year.

“We just want to win Conference USA,” Williams said. “Win it our first year, make a statement.”

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