Mean Green Picked To Make Significant Jump In C-USA Poll
North Texas Voted By Coaches To Finish 6th
IRVING - Conference USA has released its preseason women's basketball ranking and North Texas' jump of seven spots up from where it finished last season is by far the furthest move up by any C-USA team.
The Mean Green, who return three starters and have added 10 newcomers, including three transfers from power-five conferences, finished last season in 13th with a 5-13 conference record and 11-19 overall. The poll, which is a vote between C-USA coaches, has North Texas finishing sixth this year.
"I take it as a sign of respect that we were picked to finish sixth this season," Mitchell said. "Taking into account where we finished last year, our three returners who averaged doubled figures, our now-eligible transfers, and a highly regarded recruiting class, I believe the sky is the limit for our team and obviously there are people who share the same sentiment."
In its first season under head coach Jalie Mitchell, North Texas more than doubled its win total from the previous season. The Mean Green's defensive-minded, up-tempo philosophy resulted in drastically improving the team's field goal percentage. In one season under Mitchell the team improved its shooting efficiency by 7.23 percent - the nation's biggest jump - to finish with a 41. 7 mark, the sixth-best in program history. The team increased its points per game by 9.5 and assists per game by 4.3.
Mitchell began her coaching career with a bang when the team's first win came at 17th-ranked Oklahoma, it was the first win over a ranked opponent in program history. The Mean Green later defeated DFW rival SMU and won the program's first C-USA Tournament game with a 79-74 win over FAU, all while sometimes having less than 10 players healthy.
The Mean Green return last season's team leading scorer in senior junior college transfer point guard Kelsey Criner, who was named C-USA first-team all-defense last season. Criner finished with 78 steals, the eighth most for a single season in program history.
Also returning for their senior seasons are starters Candice Adams and Terra Ellison. Adams had a breakout junior year and finished third on the team in scoring. She finished the season with 49 made three pointers, the eighth most for a single season in program history. Adams has made 99 3-pointers for her career. 197 is the school record held by Ashley Norris (1995-2000). Adams is 303 points away from becoming just the 14th Mean Green women's basketball player to eclipse 1,000 career points. She scored 318 last year.
Ellison is also coming off a breakout junior campaign. The 5-foot-11 guard finished fourth on the team in scoring and set career highs in points, rebounds and assists.
Since Mitchell returned to her alma mater in May of 2015, she has recruited four transfers from elite basketball programs and three of those will be eligible this season. Baylor transfer Justis Szczepanski will redshirt due to NCAA transfer rules.
Transfers Tyara Warren, a sophomore from the University of West Virginia, Terriell Bradley, a sophomore from the University of Kansas and Stabresa McDaniel, a junior from the University of Minnesota, are all expected to play significant roles for the Mean Green this season.
Additionally, Mitchell and her staff have added four freshmen also expected to see playing time this season.
Freshman Madi Townley, a 6-foot forward from Duncanville, played four seasons at the Texas high school powerhouse. Last season as a senior, she won a high school state title after going undefeated and lost just seven games during her 4-year high school career.
North Texas also added junior college transfer Micayla Buckner. The Collin College 6-foot-3 transfer who began her college career at Baylor will be eligible this season.
The Mean Green begin their regular season at Arkansas Little Rock in the Women's Preseason NIT on Nov. 11. The tournament is for up and coming teams from each conference. This is just the second time North Texas has been invited to the prestigious event.
The Mean Green will play their first conference game on Dec. 30 at home versus Charlotte.
With six first-place votes, Western Kentucky was picked to finish first in the preseason poll and their senior guard, Kendall Noble, was selected as the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year. The Mean Green's only matchup with the Lady Toppers is on March 2 at the Super Pitt.
"As always, we will strive to be number one," Mitchell said. "I give a lot of credit to the teams who have proven that they belong at the top. It is our job to earn that position and that is what we are working toward every single day."
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