North Texas Daily

C-USA tournament preview: women’s basketball draws UAB in opening round

C-USA tournament preview: women’s basketball draws UAB in opening round

March 07
13:31 2017

With her second regular season under her belt, head coach Jalie Mitchell led the North Texas women’s basketball team to the No. 8 seed in the Conference USA tournament with an 8-10 conference record. From 2008-2015, the women’s program only won eight conference games one other time (2013).

Despite her program showing substantial progress in her sophomore season, Mitchell refuses to settle for simply making the tournament.

“We have to win our first game,” Mitchell said. “It would be something we haven’t done, and making that round of eight shows that you belong up there.”

The Mean Green will face the No. 9 seed, University of Alabama, in Birmingham in the first round. While this is a team they have beaten before, they have one advantage that separates them from every other team in the tournament.

“UAB is technically the home team because we are in Birmingham,” Mitchell said. “I think they’re a tough team, so we have to come to play.”

With the same conference record and one past game decided in overtime, which North Texas won, these two teams appear somewhat even on paper. The only possible edge could be the fact that the tournament is being played on the Blazers’ home court where they are 9-6, a sharp contrast to their 5-8 road record.

With UAB playing well at home, North Texas will turn to its three seniors for guidance.

Guards Kelsey Criner and Candice Adams and forward Terra Ellison were relied on heavily in both tournament games last season. Criner averaged 14.5 points in the two games, while Adams and Ellison averaged 14 and 12.5, respectively.

And the seniors continue to be key cogs for the team.

“We have experience of the atmosphere and what it’s going to be like,” Ellison said. “We just have to make sure we let the new players understand what it’s going to be like and how important and serious it is at the tournament.”

Along with their experience, their scoring and hectic defense could cause problems that allow them to make a run.

Their defense creates roughly 19 turnovers per game, which generates transition and three-point opportunities. Getting hot in a single-elimination tournament is not uncommon, and this team has the guard play to do so.

When the Mean Green have been forced to face a set defense in halfcourt however, they have struggled and become stagnant, especially against zone.

“We can improve our communication on defense so that we’re all on the same page,” sophomore guard Tyara Warren said. “[Also] just knowing our offense because we’re going to get zoned.”

Mitchell believes there’s a simple explanation to why opponents have gone to a zone.

“Teams are going to that because we’re not hitting [from outside],” Mitchell said. “That is something we definitely need to fix.”

Regardless of what lineup is in the game, the team’s defensive rebounding numbers have continued to be an issue. But against UAB, a bad offensive rebounding team, the Mean Green will need to win the battle on the glass.

North Texas will also need to get off to a fast start. The Mean Green lost four in a row entering the tournament, and have been inconsistent as of late.

Lastly, depth could play a huge factor in limiting the potential for North Texas. While the team has numbers in its frontcourt, the same cannot be said about the wings or guards. This could pose a problem later in the tournament.

For now, the Mean Green’s focus is on UAB, and taking it one game at a time. They know just one win could spark a magical run.

“I do believe that we are a top eight team in the league,” Mitchell said. “So we need to prove that, we need to show that, and we do it by winning that first game.”

If North Texas defeats UAB, they would face No. 1 seed Western Kentucky on Thursday. The Hilltoppers beat the Mean Green in both meetings this season.

Western Kentucky is adept on both ends of the floor and holds a considerable size advantage over North Texas. They showed all of this against the North Texas just under a week ago in a twenty-point throttling at the Super Pit.

“We just need to collectively stay together,” Ellison said. “We just need to bounce back and come into the tournament ready because everyone is fighting for that championship.”

Featured image: North Texas senior guard Candice Adams sets up on defense against UAB on January 23, 2016. Kristen Watson

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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