Criner's Late-Game Heroics Lift North Texas To Gutsy Win
Mean Green Erases 12-Point Deficit In 53-51 Win Over UAB
DENTON — Every time that North Texas needed an answer, they had one, and junior Kelsey Criner provided the definitive answer with a runner in the lane with 1.8 seconds left to lift the Mean Green to a 53-51 win over UAB on Saturday.
In a hard-fought, gutty win, North Texas (8-9, 3-4 C-USA) erased an early 12-point deficit on the way to its eighth win of the season.
“I’m extremely proud of my team,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “Fight is everything, As long as they’re fighting, were’ going to have a chance. I’m very proud of the players who stepped up tonight. I’m very pleased.”
The trio of junior guard Terra Ellison (15 points), Criner (13 points) and senior Acheil Tac (12 points) combined for 40 of the team’s 53 points. Defensively, the Mean Green held UAB (10-8, 3-4 C-USA) to 38 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers. They also held a definitive advantage in the paint, outscoring the Blazers by a 34-20 margin, none bigger than Criner’s game-winning runner in the lane.
Despite early foul trouble and falling behind by as many as 12 points in the first half, North Texas remained close, pulling to within 27-20 before halftime. In the second quarter, the Mean Green were 5-of-10 from the field while limiting UAB to 4-of-12 shooting, including a 0-of-2 mark from 3-point range.
After an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter, North Texas pulled to within 33-31 with just under three minutes left in the frame, the closest the Mean Green had been since late in the first quarter. North Texas ended the third quarter with a jumper in the lane by Criner and then a defensive stop on the other end, to head to the four quarter trailing by just a point at 36-35.
A lay-up by sophomore forward Tosin Mabodu to open the fourth quarter gave North Texas a 37-36 lead, their first lead since scoring the opening basket of the game. It sparked a 7-2 run for the Mean Green, during which they took a 42-38 lead with 7:58 left in the game, its largest lead of the contest. UAB battled back to tie the game at 44-44 heading into the final three minutes of the game.
UAB grabbed a 48-46 lead on a 3-pointer by Deanna Kuzmanic with 1:28 left, her third 3-pointer of the game. Criner made one of two free throws on the next possession, and after a steal by Ellison, Criner delivered her first of two big shots in the final minutes of the game, a runner in the lane to give North Texas a 49-48 lead with 49.7 seconds left.
The Blazers had an answer on the other end. After a missed 3-pointer and a long offensive rebound, Chelsee Black drained a straight-away 3-pointer with 12.5 seconds left, setting up Criner’s final, definitive answer in the final moments.
“You want to try to catch them off guard, and Kelsey is pretty quick with the ball,” Mitchell said. “I figured she could get it down the court and see what happen. I’m hoping we’re learning how to win. Our decision-making was mature with the shots we took and some of the other things that we did down the stretch.”
• North Texas erased a 12-point deficit, its second-largest deficit erased this season
• NT improves to 4-1 when it commits fewer turnovers than its opponent
• For the first time this season, NT won when scoring fewer than 60 points in a game
• Acheil Tac scored in double figures for the fourth-consecutive game and for the 10th time this season
• Sophomore forward Tosin Mabodu scored six points and grabbed a career-high seven rebounds off the bench
• With her 76th made 3-point field goal of her career, junior guard Candice Adams moved into sole possession of ninth place on the school’s all-time list
North Texas wraps up a three-game home stand with a single game next weekend, playing host to Rice on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 2 p.m. from the Super Pit.