North Texas Daily

Basketball teams establish cultures despite early round exits

Basketball teams establish cultures despite early round exits

Photo by James Coreas / Staff Photographer

Basketball teams establish cultures despite early round exits
March 18
00:48 2014

Akshay Mirchandani // Staff Writer

Both the Mean Green men’s and women’s basketball teams seasons ended with early round losses in the Conference USA tournament in El Paso last week. Although disappointed with the performances, the teams hope to carry their established identities into the next season.

Men’s Basketball 

(16-16, 6-10)

The men’s basketball team won four out of the last six games and entered the C-USA tournament as the No. 10 seed. The team pulled out a 63-62 overtime win against the No. 15 Rice University Owls in the first round on March 11, but fell to No. 7 Tulane University in the second round the following day, 66-61.

Head coach Tony Benford saw the energy and passion in his team against Tulane as UNT built up a 13-point lead in the first half, but Tulane came back for the win in the second.

“We got stops and that’s how we were able to build our lead,” Benford said. “College basketball is a game of runs. They came back in the second half and made a run.”

Despite losing early in the tournament, Benford said the team’s effort is something they can build on next year.

“I thought at the end the guys showed a lot of toughness and fight,” Benford said. “We want a culture built around accountability, toughness and togetherness, and I felt our guys did that.”

After transferring to UNT last summer, junior forward Colin Voss will return for his final season. He said along with the work ethic, the team chemistry improved throughout the year and is something the team can pick back up next year.

“We’ve established a lot of toughness,” Voss said. “It’s not just the plays. It’s how everybody works and how everybody’s attitude is, and that’s something that can carry over.”

The Mean Green will lose seniors Vertrail Vaughns and Brandan Walton. It will also lose its second leading scorer Alzee Williams, who said he thinks the team can improve its end result next season and will leave with fond memories of UNT.

“I’m really sad about the season being over, but I’m trying to look at it from a positive side,” Williams said. “Since I’ve been here I’ve been to the [NCAA] tournament, I won a conference championship freshman year and some good things have happened. I wish we could’ve made the tournament this year, but I’m glad we at least came out .500.”

Benford said the team needs to work better at closing out games and hanging with the teams at the top of the conference, and having eight of the 11 of the players back next season will help.

“We got to figure out how to put ourselves in a position to beat some of the top teams in the league and I think we will,” Benford said. “Some of the teams are losing some of their top players and we have most ours coming back. It’s a great league; it’s a step up above the Sun Belt.”

Women’s Basketball 

(12-18, 6-10)

The women’s team entered the C-USA Tournament as the No. 11 seed but lost 77-59 in the first game to Louisiana Tech University on March 11. It was the second straight first-round exit for the squad.

The team’s record was affected by multiple injuries down the stretch. Sophomore forward Acheil Tac, freshman guard Candice Adams, junior guard BreAnna Dawkins and junior forward Joh’Vonna Darrington all missed time throughout the year.

UNT will lose guards Laura McCoy, Hannah Christian, Desiree Nelson and Ash’Lynne Evans to graduation, but the leading scorers, sophomore forward Alexis Hyder and junior forward Briesha Wynn, will return. Head coach Mike Petersen said that despite the bad record and injuries, he enjoyed seeing the team keep games close against some of the top teams in C-USA.

“I think the positive is that we were very competitive and that we have a lot of significant contributors back,” Petersen said. “Frankly, down the stretch, we were just trying to survive injuries. We had so many kids sitting on the side in sweat suits. That’s not what we wanted terms of win-loss record.”

Petersen said his focus is keeping the team on the right path, as he believes it did this year. With a team that hasn’t had a winning record since the 2005-06 season, he said he needs more time to get the team to that level.

“I’m not happy with our record, but getting this program to where it’s consistent and stable and competitive is going to be a process,” Petersen said. “It takes a little time sometimes, and we’re in the right direction.”

Feature photo: Junior guard Janis Peterson shoots a basket during a home game against Louisiana Tech University on March 1 at the Super Pit. Photo by James Coreas / Staff Photographer

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