North Texas Daily

Mid-season review: Women’s basketball has high expectations after eventful start to season

Mid-season review: Women’s basketball has high expectations after eventful start to season

January 21
03:09 2016

Clay Massey | Staff Writer

@Clay_FC

With 13 games left in head coach Jalie Mitchell’s first year at the helm, the Mean Green women’s basketball program is in prime positon to have its best season since Karen Aston’s one year in charge during the 2011-12 season.

North Texas currently sits at 7-8 and has bounced back from a 5-24 effort last season with some iconic moments along the way. Some that stand out include the late 20 point comeback against Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, knocking off No. 17 Oklahoma University in the third game of the season, and junior guard Kelsey Criner’s breakout performance against Rice University that nearly netted the first triple double in team history.

But while there have been ups, there have also been some down moments, such as losing winnable games and sometimes not finishing games strong. Mitchell said it’s all a part of the journey.

Senior forward Acheil Tac (#23) led the Eagles in rebounds and also scored 10 points in Saturday’s come-from-behind win against IUPUI. Matthew Brown | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior forward Acheil Tac (23) led the Eagles in rebounds and also scored 10 points in the win against IUPUI. Matthew Brown | Senior Staff Photographer

“When you come in and you’re teaching a new system with new coaching staff and new girls, you’re going to have some great moments like that. And you’re also going to have some moments where you’re like, ‘What the heck was that?” Mitchell said. “I think in those moments, we’ve had a lot of teachable moments. That’s what we’ve been working on.”

One thing that Mitchell has been working on all season with her squad is instilling a winning tradition and pride in being a North Texas basketball player..Senior forward Acheil Tac has noticed that she and her teammates have latched onto this idea.

Buying into one central idea has created a boost in team chemistry, which has in turn helped improve many players’ production.

“Our chemistry has been better,” Tac said. “I’m not just talking about off the court. I’m talking about on the court. When we play out there, we play together. We share the ball, we’re doing our parts, but it falls together. It’s not everyone for themselves. That’s the biggest improvement I’ve seen.”

The improvement can be traced back to the summer when Mitchell first took the head coaching job. Mitchell had her team come in for two sessions so they would become acclimated with her, wanting to make sure her squad understood what she expected of them.

“She wanted to set the culture she wanted to set. For that to happen, everyone had to be here,” Tac said. “We started doing team stuff to create that chemistry that we needed off the court, then on the court. It starts off the court, and then leads onto the court. That’s what she tried to do during the summer. I think it worked.”

Criner has reaped the benefits of the teamwork, leading Conference-USA in assists with 5.1 per game. The junior playmaker also leads North Texas in scoring with 12.5 points per game.

Junior guard Kelsey Criner lays it up in Saturday’s win over IUPUI, pushing the Mean Green women to a 3-4 record. Matthew Brown | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior guard Kelsey Criner lays it up during the win over IUPUI. Matthew Brown | Senior Staff Photographer

Having joined the program prior to this season, Criner noticed initially that her teammate’s mindset differed from Mitchell’s. After buying into what Mitchell was telling them, Criner said the squad started to grow together.

“We started off with a different kind of mindset,” Criner said. “Then she started to change us. She came in with her attitude and her beliefs. We adjusted to her.”

With the remaining conference schedule, North Texas will face seven teams currently with a higher conference winning percentage than the Mean Green’s .400 mark. As the road through C-USA gets tougher, Mitchell expectations also get higher for her squad.

“I think if we’re a consistent team and play well, we can beat anybody in our league,” Mitchell said. “I am encouraged by some of the things we have been able to do and the goals we’ve been able to achieve. At the same time, I want to make sure we reach our potential. I have really high expectations of this group, and I think they’re finally to that point where they have them of each other.”

Featured Image: Junior guard Kelsey Criner jumps to shoot during a drill in practice. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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