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Women’s basketball survives FAU to advance in C-USA tournament

Women’s basketball survives FAU to advance in C-USA tournament

Junior guard Kelsey Criner (3) drives the basket for a layup against the Charlotte 49ers. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Women’s basketball survives FAU to advance in C-USA tournament
March 08
14:39 2016

Brady Keane | Staff Writer

@BradyKeane3

After exploding for 23 points in the first quarter, the Mean Green women’s basketball team weathered a comeback from Florida Atlantic University and held on for a 79-74 victory in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament.

North Texas (11-18) avenged a 71-61 loss to FAU (14-16) from the regular season in a game that took a similar path to the first matchup. In each game, North Texas jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter, but this time the Mean Green was able to hold on throughout the back-and-forth game to get a victory.

The win was the first for North Texas in post-season play as a member of C-USA.

“I think it’s huge,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “I am ecstatic that we are the ones to do it. We handled their change in defenses a lot better than we did the first time around, and we were comfortable and confident in what we were doing.”

In the first game of what the Mean Green hope will be a long week in Birmingham, Alabama, the team utilized a balanced offensive attack that featured five players in double digits to overcome a dominant second half performance by FAU senior Ali Gorrell.

Gorrell scored all 30 of her points in the second half to lead an Owls’ comeback, but the balanced attack of Kelsey Criner (16 points), Candice Adams (15), Acheil Tac (15), Teadra Jones (14), Terra Ellison (10) and Kasiney Williams (9) was too much for Gorrell and FAU to overcome.

“We pulled together, and this was a team win,” Mitchell said. “Everybody stepped up and did something to help us advance.”

Gorrell’s offensive outbreak was fueled by the Owls’ dominant advantage rebounding the ball, especially on the offensive end of the court. FAU racked up 17 offensive rebounds, and had 20 second chance points in the game.

The rebounding advantage allowed the Owls’ to storm back in the second half to take their first lead of the game midway through the fourth quarter. But a clutch three-point shot from Ellison late in the game helped the Mean Green pull away for good.

“I am a shooter, so that’s what I do,” Ellison said. “I was ready to shoot it and knock it down, and it hyped us up.”

Ellison’s clutch basket was yet another big shot late in an important situation for the Mean Green this season, as North Texas was able to utilize its experience in tight games throughout the year to advance Tuesday.

The victory over FAU was the Mean Green’s seventh win this season by six or fewer points.

“This is the conference tournament, and nobody is going to lay down and die for you,” Adams said. “Like coach said, it’s whoever wants it most. We had a lot of poise down the stretch.”

The Mean Green will take on No. 5 seed Old Dominion University and star Jennie Simms tomorrow at 1:30 pm, looking to avenge two regular season losses to the Monarchs. Simms scored 33 points to lead ODU to a 62-55 win over North Texas on March 3.

“The first two times, it didn’t work out in our favor,” Mitchell said. “But I think that the things that we need to do differently are fixable. We need to contain Jennie Simms a little better. I like our chances.”

Featured Image: Junior guard Kelsey Criner (3) drives the basket for a layup against the Charlotte 49ers. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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