Criner Earns Spot On Conference USA All-Defensive Team
Junior Guard Picks Up Program's First C-USA Award In First Season With Team
Junior Kelsey Criner was named to the C-USA All-Defensive Team on Sunday. (Photo by Deena Byrd)
IRVING, Texas — Conference USA announced Sunday that North Texas junior guard Kelsey Criner has been named to the C-USA All-Defensive Team. In her first season with the Mean Green, it is the first conference recognition for Criner and the first individual accolade for any North Texas women’s basketball player in three seasons within the league.
Criner finished the regular season ranked third in C-USA for steals (73) and steals per game (2.6). In conference-only matchups, she is second overall in each of those categories with 52 steals and a 2.9 average, finishing only behind UTEP guard and All-C-USA Second Team selection Starr Breedlove.
Standing at only 5’7”, Criner was also active on the defensive glass as she pulled down 127 defensive rebounds to finish second on the North Texas roster. Her 4.6 defensive rebounds per game narrowly missed the cut for a top-15 ranking in the conference, and it places her among the top rebounding guards in C-USA.
“I’m proud that she was able to earn a spot and that people recognized the work that she’s done for us,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “The tone that she sets defensively is a large part of why I brought Kelsey here. She helps to spark the rest of our defense and it’s great that other coaches were able to recognize that.”
The North Texas roster is one that has benefitted from Criner’s ability to pressure ball handlers, as the Mean Green attack has shown its efficieny in an up-tempo system that relies on the team’s ability to force turnovers. Criner’s 73 steals on the year is the 10th-best single-season mark in program history.
“[This award] shows me that I’ve been doing a good job on the defensive end,” Criner said upon hearing of her selection. “I like to dictate the play on the court and get steals so that we can turn it into offense at the other end. There’s a very intense energy that gets passed around among me and my teammates and I like to be a source of that energy.”
The voting panel for all-conference awards consisted of the league’s 14 head coaches and voting media members from each team. A full awards release from C-USA can be found here.
2015-16 Conference USA All-Defensive Team
• Kelsey Criner, North Texas
• Caitlin Jenkins, Southern Miss
• Starr Breedlove, UTEP
• Cameasha Turner, UTEP
• Kendall Noble, WKU