Mean Green Hosts Iona In Home Opener
Game Will Be Aired Live On CUSATV
DENTON -- North Texas hosts Iona College Saturday at 3 p.m. for its 2016-17 home opener.
The game is a rematch from last season, which the Gaels defeated the Mean Green 62-51 at the Hynes Athletic Center in New Rochelle, New York. It was the first time the two programs had ever met.
North Texas (1-3, 0-0 C-USA) enters Saturday's home opener after a four-game road trip to start the season that concluded with a 62-58 win at Arizona -- a revenge win from last season's defeat to the Wildcats at home. Iona (2-2, 0-0 MAAC) comes to the Super Pit for the first time riding a two-game losing streak. The Gaels won their first two games of the season but have since lost to Duquesne at home and most recently Navy on the road.
Against Arizona, the Mean Green broke out of an early season slump by shooting 47 percent from the field and out scored the Wildcats by nine points in the third quarter. North Texas' senior point guard Kelsey Criner scored 10 points in that third quarter and was the catalyst to the team's best quarter of basketball so far this season.
Another key to the Mean Green's road win over Arizona was their quick start. In each of it's previous three games, North Texas struggled early in the games to find an offensive rhythm, an expected product of a team that features nine newcomers and has played few minutes together. However in Tucson, Ariz., the team clicked from the opening tip and took charge of the momentum. Even when the Wildcats came from behind to tie it at halftime and had a three-point lead to start the second half, it never felt as if the game's momentum was out of the Mean Green's hands.
A quick start and senior leadership will again have to be present Saturday as North Texas takes on an experienced Iona team that won 23 games last season. The Gaels have a number of talented guards who can score lots of points. This should, though, play into the Mean Green's favor as they have the depth in the backcourt to combat the Iona strength. How North Texas can deal with the Gael's 6-foot-4 senior center Karynda DuPree will likely determine the outcome of Saturday's game. Despite winning, North Texas gave up 13 offensive rebounds to Arizona.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Senior point guard Kelsey Criner is the straw that stirs the drink for North Texas. The 2016 C-USA First-Team All-Defense selectee is in midseason form on the defensive side of the ball. Her 3.3 steals per game are the third-most in C-USA.
On offense, Criner seemed to breakout of her shell in the third quarter against Arizona. She made two 3-pointers and was leading fast breaks with an attack mindset that was missing in the first three games.
Last season at Iona, Criner scored 19 points and had nine rebounds with five assists.
HOW TO WATCH AND LISTEN
Saturday's game is being aired live on CUSATV.com/NorthTexas for free. Mean Green Radio Network's John Liddle will be on the broadcast.
A live radio broadcast is also available for download on KNTU.com