North Texas Women Crush FAU, 79-57
Mean Green Solidify Hold On C-USA Tournament Berth
DENTON - There is a natural unease about playing a winless last-place team, a fear based solely on the feeling that such an opponent is bound to win sometime. They're due.
But North Texas found the age-old solution to dealing with the due theory: start strong, build a lead, then eliminate the woeful foe's hopes.
The Mean Green women built a nine-point first-quarter lead and padded it to double figures in the second period behind Terriell Bradley's 12 points in the opening half, then snuffed out Florida Atlantic's rally hopes with a third-quarter surge for a 79-57 victory Thursday night at the Super Pit.
The win is the second in a row for North Texas (8-14 on the year, 5-6 in Conference USA), solidifies the Mean Green's grip on an eighth place in C-USA and dramatically increases their chances of reaching the C-USA post-season tournament. The Owls slip to 0-11 in league play, 4-18 overall.
North Texas had a strong defensive effort, forcing 20 turnovers, out-rebounding FAU 43-35, holding the Owls' 3-point shooters to just three of 22 and limiting their leading scorer, Sasha Cedeno, to just two points.
"I think defensively we really buckled down, followed the game plan and did what we needed to do," North Texas coach Jalie Mitchell said. "Defensively our communication was excellent."
North Texas threatened to blow out FAU early, getting inside easily in the first quarter, hitting 51.6 percent of its first-half field-goal attempts and making all five of its free throws. But 13 Mean Green turnovers and 15 FAU free-throw attempts kept the Owls in the game. FAU mounted a challenge in the second quarter and pulled within 33-29 with 3:34 to play in the first half before the Mean Green's Tyara Warren came up with a steal, drove for a layup, drew a foul and made the subsequent free throw to re-establish the North Texas advantage, which held at 38-33 at halftime.
FAU's hope reached its zenith early in the third quarter, when it took its first lead at 39-38. But the Mean Green responded and quickly quashed the rally with a 19-4 run to retake control and a 57-43 lead. Adams' second 3-point play of the game sparked the run and Warren fueled it with eight points in the quarter.
Warren finished with a game- and career-high 18 points, came within one rebound of a double-double, and had four steals.
"Tyara gave us a lot of energy," Mitchell said. "We did some great things offensively in the second half, we were really patient, got the ball where it needed to go and finished."
Terra Ellison and Adams also reached double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
North Texas put the game away in the fourth quarter, turning a 12-point game into the biggest margin of victory in a conference game in Mitchell's two seasons as Mean Green head coach.
Thursday's victory ties the Mean Green's 2016 league-win total with seven games to play in the regular season.
Candice Adams again drew a charge Thursday night, her 22nd of the year
Terriell Bradley's 14 points Thursday gives her 498 for her collegiate career, which includes her one season at Kansas.
Neither team had the shooter's touch from the 3-point arc. North Texas was three of 12, while FAU, which relies heavily on the 3, made just three of 22.
Tyara Warren had a career-best nine rebounds and a career-high 18 points.
Grace Goodhart was the only effective shooter from 3-point land on the court Thursday, hitting a pair of 3-point field goals.
North Texas hosts Florida International Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Super Pit.