North Texas Daily

North Texas, Criner overcome slow start to win in dramatic fashion

North Texas, Criner overcome slow start to win in dramatic fashion

January 23
17:36 2016

Clay Massey | Staff Writer


A slow start did not take the shine away from what ended up being an outstanding finish on Saturday afternoon at the Super Pit.

After the University of Alabama at Birmingham hit a three from the top of the key to tie the game at 51 with less than 15 seconds remaining, North Texas junior point guard Kelsey Criner quickly brought the ball up the court. Criner drove left and used her entire 5’7 frame to get up and lay the ball in off the backboard with just 1.8 seconds remaining, sealing the two-point victory for the Mean Green.

sophomore Tosin Mabodu (30) North Texas vs UAB Blazers January 23, 2016. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

North Texas sophomore Tosin Mabodu (30) jumps for the ball against UAB.   Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

“I just grabbed it and I just took off,” Criner said with a chuckle. “I didn’t even look at coach Mitchell, I just went.”

Just a minute before Criner put in the winning basket, the Dallas native lied on the floor in quite an amount of pain. Criner got tangled up with a UAB player at mid-court, and the opposing player fell on her leg.

She eventually got up under her own power and returned to the game seconds later, knowing it was crunch-time.

“It was just immediate pain. It scared me,” Criner said. “I just had to lie down and gather myself. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying. It hurt, but it’s the game. It’s time to play.”

She was the star of the show late, but Criner got off to a slow start along with the rest of the Mean Green. Criner scored just four points with three assists in the first half. But in the second half, Criner really stepped her game up, scoring nine points and notching three steals, finishing with 13 points.

She and fellow junior guard Terra Ellison were big factors in the Mean Green’s comeback. Ellison had a big third quarter, keeping her squad in the game with her only three of the night, sparking both her team and the crowd. She finished with a team-high 15 points.

“I felt like me hitting those shots gave the team more energy,” Ellison said. “Me stepping up gave them energy too.”

The game seemed to flow similarly to North Texas’ 20 point comeback over Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, another game in which Criner came up big late with a game-winning shot. North Texas only had to overcome a 12-point gap this time around, which Criner attributed to the team’s defense.

North Texas vs UAB Blazers January 23, 2016. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

UAB tries to look around North Texas defense near the basket. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

“We turned it up on defense,” Criner said. “We got them to waste the shot clock on many possessions, then we came back and scored on offense. So yeah, it’s kind of the same. We just had a smaller deficit.”

The win breaks a two-game skid for North Texas and comes on the heels of a dominating loss to Middle Tennessee State University just two nights ago. The Mean Green is also now 3-6 when trailing at half this season and is set up for a chance at revenge against Rice University in its next game.

The last time the teams matched up, the Mean Green fell just short on the road in triple overtime, 100-97.

“I’m proud of the fact that we kept fighting, that we played together,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “They knew exactly what we needed to do to win. It didn’t always go our way, but we bounced back and we made it happen. I’m extremely proud of the way we changed in a days’ time.”

Featured Image: North Texas junior guard Kelsey Criner (3) reacts after failing to make a basket. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

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