Hot Start Fades As Women Fall At Old Dominion, 62-55
North Texas Balance Outweighed By 33 Points From Monarch Jennie Simms
Acheil Tac led North Texas with 16 points. It was her 18th double-digit effort of the year. (Photo by Rick Yeatts)
NORFOLK, Va. — The North Texas women’s basketball team got off to one of its hottest starts all season in Thursday’s showdown with Old Dominion but, led by the league’s top scorer, the Lady Monarchs answered every Mean Green run en route to a 62-55 decision from the Ted Constant Center.
North Texas (10-17, 5-12) scored the game’s first nine points behind three early baskets from Acheil Tac in an offensive attack that seemingly couldn’t miss to begin the contest. The Mean Green cashed in on its first four attempts before ultimately finishing with 20 points on a 53.3 field goal percentage in the first.
Jennie Simms - a candidate for Conference USA player of the year - willed ODU past the Mean Green’s momentum-building start, eventually finishing as the Monarchs’ only double-digit scorer with 33 points.
“I don’t think we did a good job of getting her out of her comfort zone, not as good as we did the first time around,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said, reflecting on Simms’s 14-point outing in the year’s first matchup between these teams. “She got to the rim, we put her on the foul line and she made it very difficult on us.”
ODU (13-16, 9-8) took advantage of North Texas shooting lulls in the second frame, where the visiting team shot just 4-of-15. The Monarchs pieced together a 16-8 advantage in the frame. Combined with a 7-0 streak to finish the first quarter, ODU outmatched the Mean Green by a 23-8 deficit in the final 12:24 of the first half.
The Monarch lead would grow to 12 points - ODU’s largest of the day - by the 7:03 mark of the fourth frame before North Texas pieced together one last run at a comeback.
Willed by junior guard Kelsey Criner, the Mean Green scored four quick baskets to cut the ODU lead to eight, but it came at a cost. As Criner converted a layup, she took a hard shot that sent her to the North Texas bench with an injury. Junior Terra Ellison checked in for Criner and would go on to score seven points that made it a five-point game.
After a few back-and-forth baskets, it appeared that ODU had the game sealed as the Monarchs owned a seven-point lead with 1:47 to go but, just 20 seconds later, a 10-second backcourt violation gave the Mean Green the ball and an inkling of hope.
Criner, having returned from the injury, knocked down a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 59-55 with a minute to play, but it was as close as North Texas would get before ODU sealed the game from the free throw line.
• With six assists on the night, Criner moves to second in North Texas history for single-season dimes. She has 136 on the year and is 23 away from tying Kristen Von Netzer (1992-93) for the top mark.
• Tac’s 16 points on the night gave the senior her sixth straight game with at least 10 points. She has 18 double-digit scoring efforts on the year.
• Tac also added nine rebounds on the day, and that moves her into NT’s top-10 for a career. With 565 boards, Tac is 10th all-time and sits five rebounds away from taking ninth place.
• The loss ensures that NT will not avoid the first-round bye of the C-USA Tournament next week. If the Mean Green beats Charlotte and Florida Atlantic loses to UAB on Saturday, NT would become the 11th seed.
The Mean Green stay on the road for another road contest this weekend. NT’s regular season finale will take place against Charlotte at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 5, from the Halton Arena.