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Women’s basketball hopes to rely on tenacity despite limping into C-USA Tournament

Women’s basketball hopes to rely on tenacity despite limping into C-USA Tournament

Junior guard Kelsey Criner (3) drives the basket for a layup against Southern Mississippi University. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Women’s basketball hopes to rely on tenacity despite limping into C-USA Tournament
March 07
12:38 2016

Brady Keane | Staff Writer

@BradyKeane3

After kicking off the season on a hot streak, the North Texas women’s basketball team has suffered through a roller coaster ride of a year. With the Conference USA tournament set to get underway Tuesday, the Mean Green (10-18) has won just two of its last 11 games.

Head coach Jalie Mitchell and the team hoped to close out the season on a high note after defeating the University of Southern Mississippi 57-55 with a buzzer beater at the end of the game on senior night. However, North Texas lost its final two games to Old Dominion University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte by a combined margin of just 10 points.

“It is what it is,” Mitchell said. “You always want to have that extra oomph, that extra kick, to really feel good about what’s ahead of you.”

The two losses to close the season dropped the Mean Green down to No. 13 in the C-USA standings, forcing the team into a play-in game in the first round of the tournament Tuesday at 11:00 am against No. 12 seed Florida Atlantic University.

The game will be a rematch of what Mitchell said should have been a win when the team traveled to FAU and fell 71-61 just over two weeks ago. The loss served epitomized the way the season has gone for the Mean Green, as North Texas got off to a hot start before falling behind and fighting back to within striking distance in the fourth quarter.

“When we first started, we started on a good note,” senior forward Acheil Tac said of the season. “Then we kind of fell a little bit and went through some trials. We’ve started to pick it back up, and I feel like our time is now. I’m excited about that.”

The tournament will challenge the Mean Green’s depth. If the team is to advance through the bracket to the championship game, North Texas will have to play five games in five days.

Five games in five days, or even two games in two days, can create problems for a team that has lacked depth throughout the season. The Mean Green has played much of the season with only nine players available, leaving only four on the bench for substitutions.

“Our mental aspect will be important,” Mitchell said. “We won’t have that day in between games in the tournament like we do during the season. We have to make sure we’re fresh, and not thinking about fatigue. With our lack of depth, that’s critical.”

The Mean Green will look to battle the possibility of fatigue with the strong defense Mitchell has stressed throughout the season. Combined with the team’s tenacity late in games, a team’s grit can be an advantage during March Madness.

“It’s very important,” junior guard Candice Adams said. “We have to keep up with our maturity and just fight, give it our all and don’t hold back on any possessions. We really have to grind on defense.”

If the Mean Green is able to knock off FAU, they face a daunting road through the bracket. With a win, North Texas would face another rematch with No. 5 seed Old Dominion at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. A win in the second round would earn the Mean Green a date with No. 4 seed Charlotte on Thursday at the same time.

The team would then likely face the No. 1 seed University of Texas at El Paso, the overwhelming tournament favorite, on Friday morning in the semifinals. UTEP (25-3) has won seven of its last eight games, and won the regular season C-USA championship.

Regardless of the odds, the Mean Green is focused on making a splash this week in Birmingham in Mitchell’s first year back with the program she made a stamp on as a player.

“We know what we want. We just have to go after it,” Tac said. “We’re trying to be conference champs by any means.”

Featured Image: Junior guard Kelsey Criner (3) drives the basket for a layup. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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