North Texas Daily

Women’s basketball improving statistically across the board under Jalie Mitchell

Women’s basketball improving statistically across the board under Jalie Mitchell

February 01
10:45 2016

Brady Keane | Staff Writer

@BradyKeane3

Although head women’s basketball coach Jalie Mitchell has only been in charge of the Mean Green women’s basketball team for less than a year, a drastic turnaround has occurred.

The Mean Green (8-10, 3-5) has improved in almost every statistical category through 18 games this season, ranging from points per game to field goal percentage. The team is scoring 10 points more per game, shooting 9 percent better from the free throw line, 7.8 percent better from the field and the Mean Green are currently just nine assists short of the entire season total from last year.

The increased production has led to the team winning three more games than last season, with 10 games still remaining on the schedule.

“They are fighting harder, they are working harder, and they are more in tune and committed to the things that we ask them to do as a staff,” Mitchell said. “I think they like the taste of winning that we have been getting more so than last year, and they fight for that feeling.”

A great deal of that fight and passion stems from the off-season addition of junior point guard Kelsey Criner from New Mexico Junior College. Criner, who leads the team in scoring, assists and steals, is a versatile player that brings a high level of energy to both the offensive and defensive sides of the court.

Although she’s had a strong season in her Mean Green debut, it is the combination of her and junior guard Candice Adams that has improved the team’s backcourt production. Despite only playing together for just 18 games, the duo has found a way to provide several magical moments for the Mean Green this season.

“We just have a connection,” Criner said. “If I’m not scoring, she’s finding a way to score. If she’s not scoring, I’m finding a way to score.”

Some of the more memorable moments this season include an improbable second-half 20-point comeback in a 68-67 win against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, a last second 60-57 win over rival Southern Methodist University, a 61-57 upset win over then No. 17 Oklahoma University, and a last second 53-51 win over Conference USA foe University of Alabama at Birmingham.

While the statistical increases have been notable, the team’s ability to band together late in close games has equally helped the team buck last year’s trends.

“You have to know when to pull together to finish it off,” senior forward Acheil Tac said. “It was crunch time. We knew what to do, and everyone came together to do it. That’s where the chemistry came in, and that’s why we succeeded.”

Coming from behind to earn a win is something the 2014-2015 team struggled to pull off. Much of the improvement can be attributed to Mitchell, as the team has bought into her program.

“It’s critical,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think that we’d have some of the success that we’ve had if we don’t have buy in. I think we took a step forward trying to make sure that everyone is on the same page and giving 100 percent every day. Buy in is buy in. You’re either all in, or you’re all out.”

The turn-around, according to Mitchell, starts with the team leaders: Criner, Adams and senior forward Acheil Tac. As well-seasoned players in important positions on the team, Mitchell said the trio has embraced key leadership roles to help instill Mitchell’s vision.

“You have to have some people that are repeating what you’re saying and enforcing the rules and making sure that we stay focused on our goals,” Mitchell said. “I’m very fortunate that those three have stepped up and accepted those roles.”

Although the improvement is apparent on the stat sheet, the Mean Green have still fallen short in several winnable games this season. The team has lost six games by seven points or less, meaning Mean Green could have had a winning record, had those games gone the other way.

But the statistical improvements are still hard to ignore, even for the Mean Green’s toughest critic.

“I won’t say I’m satisfied, but I’m proud of how far our team has come,” Mitchell said. “There have been a lot of games that could have gone the other way, but I think we are continuing to make progress. That’s the most important thing. We are moving in the right direction, not standing still, and not moving backwards.”

Featured Image: North Texas junior guard Candice Adams (14) North Texas vs UAB Blazers January 23, 2016. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

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