Criner's Dominance Not Enough In Triple Overtime Loss At Rice
Junior Guard Falls Rebound Shy of Triple-Double in 100-97 Shortfall
HOUSTON -- Kelsey Criner almost made history on Sunday afternoon, falling just a rebound short of North Texas's first-ever triple-double. But the junior guard's dominant outing didn't correlate to a Mean Green win as the Rice Owls downed North Texas in a triple overtime thriller from the Tudor Fieldhouse, 100-97.
Criner put up 34 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds on the day, scoring 30 points in the final 25 minutes alone to keep North Texas alive at points when it looked like the game was all but over.
"I thought she was rattled at the very beginning of the game but I was pleased with the changes she made in her game," head coach Jalie Mitchell said. "I can't ask any more of her to be quite honest. She stepped up, took the shots we needed her to take, made the passes we needed her to make and I'm proud of her performance."
Overall, the Mean Green's play looked good enough to get the job done. Criner had 34 points, Terra Ellison had 18 and seven rebounds, Candice Adams chipped in 17 and Acheil Tac had nine points and five boards.
But the Owls did just enough to trump North Texas.
The day's first three quarters were summarized by Rice's ability to get points in the paint and take advantage of the offensive glass. The Owls scored 26 of their 42 points inside through the first three frames to wear down a North Texas defense that is usually effective at limiting interior chances. Rice's offense got plenty of second opportunities thanks to 16 offensive rebounds through the first 30 minutes.
Once down by as much as seven in the fourth - Rice's biggest lead of the day - the Mean Green steadily chipped away at the deficit behind eight points from Criner. Then, trailing 60-56 with 32 seconds remaining, it was Adams who forced the first extra period, knocking down a long three-point shot from the top of the key before adding two points from the line.
With mere moments left in the first OT, Tac shimmied her way through the Rice interior for a layup that tied the game for the eighth time, but Rice junior Jasmine Goodwine gave a two-point lead back to the Owls with a layup of her own. Then it was Criner's time to play hero and she responded, knocking down a jumper off the dribble to force another overtime period.
The final frame featured a back-and-forth battle between Criner and Goodwine as both players tried to clinch the win for their respective teams. The Mean Green guard would go on to score 12 of the team's 14 points in the period, but her output wasn't enough to compensate for three North Texas starters that were lost to fouls. Goodwine finished with eight points in the period to guide Rice to a three-point win.
The result was 55 minutes worth of hard-fought, competitive basketball, a point that wasn't lost on NT's skipper.
"The team did all I could ask for with their ability to keep fighting today," Mitchell said. "I'm proud of that."
North Texas will continue its three-game C-USA road streak with a matchup against Marshall. The contest will take place at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 14, from Huntington, West Virginia.
• Candice Adams made career start No. 60 on Sunday afternoon, leading the Mean Green roster.
• Sunday's triple overtime game was only the second in team history. The first 3OT game was an 88-83 loss to Alabama on Nov. 19, 2012.
• The 197 points scored by both teams in the contest were the most combined points for a game in team history.
• Criner's 34-point outing was the first 30+ point performance for a Mean Green player since Denetra Kellum had 30 in the 2010-11 season.
• Criner now has two 10+ assist games on the season. Prior to 2015-16, no NT player had logged 10 dimes since 2002.
• Terra Ellison's 18 points was good for a career high.