Postseason hoops questions — Part II (Did the UNT women improve more than we realize?)

North Texas freshman forward Eboniey Jeter (5) ducks down to get around Southern Mississippi forward Tamara Jones earlier this season at the Super Pit. The development of players like Jeter is among the reasons UNT coach Mike Petersen believes the Mean Green made headway as a program in a 12-18 campaign. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

The UNT women finished 12-18 in their second season under Mike Petersen.

On the surface, that seems pretty disappointing. Petersen would tell you it’s disappointing.

With that being said, one can make a case that UNT made some progress this year that has been somewhat overlooked.

UNT picked up a really good win over UTEP, which has won 24 games this year, and was also took a host of other teams to the wire, including a 20-win Tulane team, a 25-win Southern Miss team and SMU.

UNT got UNT-ed (commonly known as having something completely wacky, unforeseen and unprecedented happen because it ain’t easy being green) over and over. Granted, some of that was UNT’s fault, but UTSA did beat the Mean Green on a 35-foot buzzer-beater. Tulane knocked off UNT after scoring on a free throw rebound that was batted around like it was in a pinball machine and SMU got the Mean Green when Alexis Hyder’s potential game-winning bunny rolled out.

“Overall, it’s one of those years where we made progress, but our record isn’t going to show it,” Petersen said after UNT fell to Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA tournament. “It ended really disappointingly. This is not the effort and performance we wanted, but for the most part this group competed very well and played very well against good teams. We just didn’t close games.

“This group will have most of its main parts back and learned a lot.”

The fact that UNT won as many games as it did was somewhat surprising because of two factors — a host of injuries and the strength of C-USA.

UNT lost BreAnna Dawkins, its’s third-leading scorer from last year at 10.1 points a game, eight games into the season. Acheil Tac, a key frontcourt player, went down after 21 games. Candice Adams, who started 20 games at point guard, lasted 23 games before injuring her knee. Joh’Vonna Darrington, a JUCO transfer, played in 13 games and then came back for UNT’s conference tournament game.

Oh, and Taylor Hooker, who looked like she would be a key addition when she arrived from Tulsa, had a kid, came back and played only briefly before giving up basketball.

That would be a lot for any team to deal with. UNT had to do just that while making the transition to C-USA, which was flat loaded this year. Middle Tennessee is ranked in the Top 25 and is among five teams with 20 wins in the league.

One can make a case that this is one of the best seasons for women’s basketball in its history.

MTSU hammered UNT, but the Mean Green was pretty competitive throughout the year without having a whole lot of key seniors.

UNT really had two in Desiree Nelson and Laura McCoy. Nelson started 20 games and averaged 4.0 points a game.

UNT is going to miss McCoy. The Blonde Bomber averaged 5.4 points a game, but was also second on the team with 48 assists, second in 3-pointers made with 37 and was the glue that held the Mean Green together.

With Adams returning and Dawkins coming back, those are two holes UNT should be able to fill in a year when a ton of other C-USA teams lose key players.

Petersen feels like his team got better this season, even if the Mean Green’s record didn’t show it and that next year could be a breakout season for the Mean Green, as long as it doesn’t get UNT-ed again.

Whether or not he is right is at the top of our list for issues facing the Mean Green women heading into the off-season.

Here’s our list so far:
1. Can the UNT men improve in the post?
2. Did the UNT women improve more than we realize?

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