North Texas Daily

Quick Hits: Basketball Coach’s Show – Episode 8

Quick Hits: Basketball Coach’s Show – Episode 8

North Texas women's basketbal head coach Jalie Mitchell and Steven Bartolotta talk at Rudy's BBQ on the Coach's Show. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Quick Hits: Basketball Coach’s Show – Episode 8
February 29
15:05 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexjlessard

The last basketball coach’s show of the season took place Monday afternoon at Rudy’s BBQ, covering all the latest happenings for each team. With only one more week of the regular season remaining, both women’s head coach Jalie Mitchell and men’s head coach Tony Benford reflected on the year to this point and looked forward to the Conference USA tournament.

First Half: Jalie Mitchell

After being unable to hold a first half lead in a 78-67 home loss to Louisiana Tech University, the Mean Green women (10-16, 5-11) bounced back strong on senior day. Each team battled throughout the game, but a jumper with 0.4 seconds left from senior forward Acheil Tac secured a two-point victory for North Texas over Southern Mississippi University.

“I know it was so much fun for me and so much fun for Acheil,” Mitchell said. “For her to go out like that getting the winning basket on her home floor was pretty awesome. That game, it was pretty even and back-and-forth across the board up until that moment.”

The win brought the team’s season win total up to 10, an accomplishment Mitchell said proves the team is headed in the right direction.

“I don’t even think they really realized it until after we had done it,” Mitchell said. “To double your wins after one season I think is incredible, especially considering how much was lost as far as scoring and all of that from last season. I think nobody really expected much from this group.”

North Texas women's head coach Jalie Mitchell turns to ask Steven Bartolotta some questions on the Coach's Show at Rudy's BBQ. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

North Texas women’s head coach Jalie Mitchell turns to ask Steven Bartolotta some questions on the Coach’s Show at Rudy’s BBQ. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Instead of having a player or assistant coach as this week’s guest, Mitchell took on the role of host and interviewed 15-year sports information director Steven Bartolotta, who will be leaving North Texas for a job at the Arlington Police Department after the C-USA tournament.

Bartolotta had traveled to cover the team during Mitchell’s tenure as a player from 1999-2002 and was asked about his top three favorite Mean Green memories. This season’s win over the University of Oklahoma made the cut, but the story of feeling a bit under the weather at a road game during Mitchell’s senior season claimed the top spot.

“Late in the first half, the game’s going on, and I’m still just nursing that sprite,” Bartolotta said. “Next thing I know, my stomach starts bubbling up. About five or six seconds later, I threw the headset down and threw up on the air.”

Thankfully for both of them, there was no barfing Monday, but there was plenty of insight on what’s most important for the team headed into its final two road games of the year this week.

“You’ve got to go hard and take care of business,” Mitchell said. “You can’t really worry about what everybody else does. You want to hold the future in your own hands.”

Second Half: Tony Benford

To begin the men’s portion of the show, host Dave Barnett compared his choices for the All-C-USA voting ballot with Benford. Each chose Louisiana Tech senior guard Alex Hamilton as Player of the Year, but neither left off sophomore forward Jeremy Combs from their first-team.

As of today, Combs finds himself in the top ten in C-USA in points (T-10th), rebounding (2nd), field goal percentage (3rd), steals (7th) and minutes played (9th).

“That just shows you his improvement from last year,” Benford said. “He’s always had a great motor and rebounds the basketball. He scores in small spaces, but obviously he’s been able to expand his game. He’s able to hit that mid-range shot now, and he’s going to the line.”

One person to thank for his improvement is strength and conditioning coach Chris Seroka, this week’s men’s radio guest. Seroka has coached volleyball as well as men’s and women’s basketball at North Texas for 16 years and has noticed the intensity of training and workouts in athletics noticeably increase since his days as a kicker at Southern Miss.

North Texas men's basketball head coach Tony Benford talks about his All-Conference USA team with Dave Barnett on the Coach's Show. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

North Texas men’s basketball head coach Tony Benford talks about his All-Conference USA team with Dave Barnett on the Coach’s Show. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

“I knew our mindsets were going to be clicking when [Mitchell] got here, and coach Benford is the same way,” Seroka said. “Everything is very strict. There’s no such thing as early is on time. You’re either early or late. We’ve really got to hold their fee to the fire with everything that we do.”

North Texas (6-10, 11-18) will look to bounce back from two hard-fought road losses last week with a two-game home stand to close out the regular season against Old Dominion University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The Mean Green lost to both by more than 20 points on the road in mid-February, making defense a top priority for Benford this time around.

“We’ll probably play more zone this week and make sure we get out to the three point shooters,” Benford said. “When you play zone, there’s second chance shots, so we’ve got to make sure we rebound the basketball and everybody puts a body on somebody.”

Featured Image: North Texas women’s basketbal head coach Jalie Mitchell and Steven Bartolotta talk at Rudy’s BBQ on the Coach’s Show. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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