North Texas Women Battle Back To Take Down SMU, 60-57
Mean Green Give First-Year Coach Jalie Mitchell Her First Home Victory
DENTON - North Texas controlled 34 minutes of Tuesday night's game against Metroplex rival SMU at the Super Pit. But getting first-year head coach Jalie Mitchell her first home victory was not going to be that easy.
The Mean Green women, up by as many as 14 points in the second half, saw their lead wiped out by a frantic SMU rally that put the Mustangs on top, 55-53, with 3:16 to play, forcing a Mean Green timeout.
"I told them we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win," Mitchell said. "We had to do what got us that lead. I think they got themselves pumped up after that, and figured it out. This team has been working on overcoming adversity, on taking a punch and being able to punch right back."
Coming out of the timeout, North Texas stung the Mustangs with a flurry of blows that turned the momentum in the Mean Green's favor. A clutch 12-foot jumper by Candice Adams stopped the bleeding and tied the game, a dagger of a three-point field goal by Kelsey Criner at the end of the shot clock put North Texas back on top, and two free throws by Terra Ellison with 12.7 seconds left iced an emotional 60-57 North Texas win.
And throughout those final three minutes, the Mean Green defense, which had played so well in building the original lead, held the Mustangs scoreless until 1.3 seconds play and forced three turnovers. For the game, NT allowed SMU to make just 38.6 percent of its field-goal attempts and harried the Mustangs into 19 turnovers.
The victory lifts NT to 2-3 on the year and snaps a four-game losing streak against SMU (3-3).
"I love that," Mitchell said of besting the Mustangs. "I have to admit."
Criner, the junior guard from Dallas by way of New Mexico Junior College, led all scorers with 17 points and added a team-high eight rebounds.
"I like our team with the ball in Kelsey's hands," Mitchell said. "She makes really great decisions, and she's tough to guard."
Adams had 12 points, Bria Frierson had 10 and Ellison had nine. Frierson also had a big game defensively, limiting SMU's 6-5 post Stephanie Collins to 10 points, her second lowest output of the season.
North Texas was tenacious on the defensive end from the opening tip, forcing 12 turnovers and holding SMU to 32-percent field-goal shooting on eight of 25 in the first half. The Mean Green also held a 20-17 rebounding advantage over the much taller Mustangs and their 6-5 and 6-3 posts, despite Acheil Tac, NT's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, drawing two first-quarter fouls and seeing limited time in the first half. North Texas finished the game with 37 rebounds to SMU's 36.
Offensively, North Texas used balanced scoring to grab and hold the lead in the first half. Criner sparked NT to a 15-0 run in the first quarter with a pair of drives down the middle of the lane and a three-pointer to send the Mean Green to a 17-5 lead. SMU responded with a 7-0 run in the second quarter to draw within five, 25-20, but an Adams three and a drive and layup by Teadra Jones lifted North Texas to a 30-22 halftime lead.
SMU, however, raised its level of intensity in the third quarter, drawing within three at 36-33. But when SMU missed layups on three consecutive trips, Criner took advantage, hitting a three and another driving layup to ignite an 11-0 run to rebuild the lead to 47-33. It was a 53-41 North Texas lead in the fourth period when the Mustangs went on a 14-0 run to take the lead and set up the final Mean Green heroics.
Kelsey Criner's 17 points and eight rebounds were both season and NT-career highs for the junior guard.
Candice Adams's 12-point performance is her third double-digit scoring effort this year.
Terra Ellison scored in double figures for the fourth time in five games this season.
Bria Frierson had a career-high 10 points.
This was North Texas' first win over SMU since 2011.
The Mean Green's 14-point lead was the largest lead NT has enjoyed this year.
North Texas continues its three-game homestand with a game Friday, Dec. 4, against Weber State at the Super Pit. Tipoff is 7 p.m.