For the fourth time this season, 40 minutes was not enough for the Mean Green women’s basketball team.
But for the first time, even a five-minute overtime period left the game tied.
Finally, after 50 minutes of carnage and bedlam in a game where neither team led by more than eight, North Texas (12-18, 8-10) remained standing in a must-win game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The Mean Green were able to outlast UAB 65-62 in double-overtime in the first round of the Conference USA tournament to keep their season alive. North Texas advanced to play No. 1 seed Western Kentucky University Thursday in the quarterfinals.
“We don’t give up, we put up a fight no matter what the scoreboard says,” senior forward Terra Ellison said. “Being 4-0 in overtimes this year shows that we put up a good fight and we’re going to win [in overtime].”
Ellison posted a career-high 21 points while also bringing down 10 rebounds against the Blazers (15-15, 8-10). Sophomore guard Terriell Bradley scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while also sinking the final two free throws of the game to put the Mean Green up three with six seconds left in the second overtime.
Both teams went cold to close out the game in the fourth quarter, combining to score just six points in the final 6:50 of play.
Head coach Jalie Mitchell’s message to the team throughout the fourth quarter and overtime was more motivational than tactical in this long-winding battle.
“[I said] ‘look everybody’s tired, we need to just be solid,’” Mitchell said. “We got big stops down the stretch, the hustle plays were ours, the rebounds were ours, we slowed it down and executed some things.”
Sophomore post Micayla Buckner may have been the difference in this game for the Mean Green. Her 10 points, three blocks and two steals were key, but Buckner’s plus/minus tells the true story.
In the 22 minutes Buckner was on the court, North Texas outscored the Blazers by 18 points.
“We’ve been missing that inside presence,” Mitchell said. “For her to come out and be a presence for us is really huge and we need all of [our posts and forwards] to be a presence.”
Senior Kelsey Criner scored 12 points and dished out eight assists, and also hit a tough jumper with 29 seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game. The Mean Green committed just 14 turnovers and also had 38 points in the paint.
North Texas pulled out another back and forth game, remaining undefeated (4-0) in overtime games this season. This time, the win helped the team accomplished its mission of reaching the C-USA quarterfinals for the first time under Mitchell.
Now, they draw the top-seeded Western Kentucky University which team defeated the Mean Green by 20 points just a week ago. North Texas had four players log more than 45 minutes of play in the win over UAB, meaning fatigue and mental exhaustion may play a role in what will already be an uphill climb against the Lady Hilltoppers.
Regardless, the Mean Green got a win in the postseason tournament for the second consecutive year, and Mitchell is pleased with the resilience of her senior-laden team.
“I’m proud of my team for sticking together [and] for their leadership,” Mitchell said. “We’ve survived. Now it’s time to advance.”