North Texas Daily

It didn’t go as planned, but women’s basketball took another important step rebuilding in 2016

It didn’t go as planned, but women’s basketball took another important step rebuilding in 2016

March 21
14:43 2017

In a meaningless game against Texas Woman’s University at the start of the 2016 season, the North Texas women’s basketball team suffered an injury that haunted them for the rest of the year.

As junior guard Stabresa McDaniel clutched her leg writhing in pain on the hardwood, the entire Super Pit fell silent. From head coach Jalie Mitchell to the end of the bench, the Mean Green knew what they had lost.

McDaniel was done for the season with a torn left ACL.

It may have only been a preseason game, but McDaniel looked liked the most seasoned scorer on the roster, leading the team with 14 points in 23 minutes before going down in exhibition.

Without her, the team stumbled out of the gates and went 3-9 in their first 12 games. Their offense, for the most part, was stagnant and lacked a perennial scorer. Despite this, North Texas was able to rebound from their sluggish start to go 9-10 in their final 19 games, a record much more indicative of this team’s talent without McDaniel.

At the end of the season, North Texas sported a 12-19 record – only one win better than their 2015 campaign – and won their first-round Conference USA tournament game before getting shellacked by Western Kentucky.

And while this year’s team did not end up being the massive leap from average to great some expected, they still had a very good season, especially once they overcame the early injury to McDaniel.

In addition to increasing their C-USA win total from five to eight games, North Texas had a slew of transfers from Power Five schools such as sophomore Tyara Warren from West Virginia and sophomore Terriell Bradley from Kansas, as well as McDaniel from Minnesota. Along with her ability to recruit, Mitchell proved in her first offseason she can bring formidable talent to Denton. Equally as important as getting the players is getting them to gel in time for conference play, which Mitchell was also able to do.

In that sense, this team had a very productive season.

Even though there was not a marginal difference in their record, the Mean Green took an important next step in the rebuilding process.

More than anything, however, it was easy for fans to get behind this team.

They played hard, had three seniors who all were great people and had a coach that is one of the best players in North Texas history. After last year’s surprising turnaround, the Mean Green needed to show they could continue to trend upward – and they did. North Texas played in and won several tight games, including four overtime contests, all of which were on the road. Some of that can be contributed to coaching, and some can be contributed to having composed seniors on the floor.

The three seniors, guards Kelsey Criner and Candice Adams and forward Terra Ellison, were terrific for most of the year. Nearly every time I wrote something about this team I mentioned them as if what they were doing was the norm in college basketball.

But it’s not.

Those three seniors all left their marks on the program as they helped carry the team in Mitchell’s second season. In many ways, they were the heart and soul of the squad.

And next year, they will not be there to lean on. When the clock is winding down late in games, there will be no turning to them to make a big shot.

In order to avoid the dreaded lull of mediocrity, Mitchell will at the very least need to find a center willing to do the dirty work.

That means rebounding and contesting shots in the paint – something that was virtually non-existent this year. Instead of relying on one post player in particular, the team utilized a “center by committee” in sophomore Micayla Buckner, junior Tosin Mabodu and freshmen Jada Poland and Hannah Hopkins. One of those players will either need to step up, or the Mean Green will need to recruit and bring someone else in. Having a rim protector is paramount in college basketball.

Of course, if all else fails, Mitchell could throw on a jersey at halftime and ball on these kids like Michael Jordan when he was on the Wizards. Considering how competitive she is, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet, honestly.

All jokes aside, North Texas took a step in the right direction in the midst of a tough injury and slow start.

While it didn’t happen how they envisioned, the Mean Green continue to show they are back on the right track.

Featured Image: North Texas players celebrate on the bench after shots start to fall for the Mean Green. The team shot 56 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from beyond the arc. Colin Mitchell

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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