For the first time since North Texas head coach Jalie Mitchell was a player herself in 2002, the Mean Green have advanced to the semifinals of a conference tournament. As the number 11 seed, the task was tall for head coach Jalie Mitchell’s team coming into the Conference USA tournament.
Not only have they met the challenge with now two wins, they have made history.
After Wednesday’s win against sixth seeded UNC at Charlotte, the Mean Green took down the third seeded Louisiana Tech University on Thursday afternoon 76-69.
“Great win, not just for our team, but for our program,” Mitchell said. “I’m so proud of our girls. We were resilient. A game can bring a ton of different opportunities, a ton of different adversities and I thought we handled them well.”
North Texas (17-13, 6-10) jumped out by as many as 19, leading 50-31 in the third quarter. The Lady Techsters (19-11, 10-6) made their run by way of a 12-2 spurt in the third quarter to cut the gap to as little as four, but a near-perfect performance at the free throw line helped the Mean Green maintain the lead and preserve the historic win for the program.
Freshman guard Trena Mims had the game of her young career. Mims scored a career-high 19 points, grabbed six rebounds and was perfect from the free throw line in nine attempts.
“I was very confident,” Mims said. “We step to the line with confidence just like practice. In the second half, they caught back up, but we were able to close it out with free throws.”
“She’s got ice water in those Oklahoma veins,” Mitchell added with a laugh.
Junior guard Terriell Bradley was up to her usual tricks, scoring 18 points and was also perfect from the line, making 8-of-8 free throws. North Texas shot 25-of-28 from the free throw line, resulting in a sparkling and crucial 93 percent.
Junior Grace Goodhart, Sophomore Adrianna Henderson and freshman Lauren Holmes all made both of their free throw attempts as well. With the clock becoming an ally, Louisiana Tech sent North Texas to the free throw line.
The Mean Green made them pay, and held on for the win.
“We talk all year about what kind of team we are and what kind of team we can be,” Mitchell said. “We have dreamed about these opportunities, we have set these goals. To be able to accomplish them and continue to be in the running, to keep playing, is huge for us.”
Defense has not been a pressing issue for the Mean Green at points this season, but not this time. The Mean Green had eight players with at least four points and four with at least nine in the win.
Junior post Micayla Buckner drew the tough assignment guarding Louisiana Tech post Alexus Malone. And while the stat sheet may not reflect the game that was, Buckner was a defensive force and kept the potent Techster paint attack in check.
“Micayla is our rock,” Mitchell said. “She’s our best defender. She helps other people and she does her job herself to the best of her ability. I feel like she played a great defensive game even though she fouled out. I’m really proud of her ability to keep going out, keep bringing it and not getting discouraged by the whistle. She’s a fighter, she’s a competitor, and she showed that tonight.”
After two wins in two days, North Texas is ready for round three.
“We will rest up and bring it again tomorrow,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully we’ll get another one and you’ll see us playing on Saturday.”
Tipoff against Western Kentucky University arrives at 8 p.m. and the game can be watched live at The Star in Frisco or online via Facebook.