Women’s basketball: UNT returns to Sun Belt play

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  /DRC/David Minton
North Texas guard Laura McCoy, left, pressures Louisiana-Lafayette guard Sylvana Okde on Dec. 1 at the Super Pit.
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Playing on the road hasn’t been the easiest of tasks for North Texas this season.

UNT has fought and scratched its way through a challenging schedule and nearly pulled off what would have been monumental upsets of Oklahoma, Alabama and SMU, only to come up short each time.

Tally them all up, along with a couple of other losses, and the Mean Green is staring at an 0-5 road mark heading into a game against Middle Tennessee today in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Breaking that slide at MTSU in its first game since its Christmas break could be tough for UNT.

The Blue Raiders have played in six of the last seven NCAA tournaments, including the last four, and are 61-2 in conference play at home under coach Rick Insell.

MTSU has won eight straight against UNT and will be looking to get back on track after a rare home loss — a stunning 58-51 setback against Florida International.

UNT (2-8) has lost three straight, including a 73-62 loss to Tulane on Saturday, but is in a first-place tie in the Sun Belt Conference West Division’s loss column after winning its only league game.

The Mean Green beat Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 1 in an unusually early Sun Belt game. Arkansas-Little Rock is the only other unbeaten team in the division at 3-0.

UNT heads into its second conference game with three players averaging in double figures, including two freshmen. Alexis Hyder is posting 12.1 points a game in her first season with the Mean Green, while fellow freshman Loryn Goodwin is posting 10.0 points off the bench. Sophomore BreAnna Dawkins is averaging 11.2 points a game.

MTSU was a nearly unanimous favorite to win the East Division in the preseason coaches poll, but is 6-5 after facing a schedule just as tough as UNT’s. The Blue Raiders, who are 1-1 in league play, have lost to nationally ranked Tennessee and Kentucky and also lost at Iowa.

MTSU will look to some of the players who have been its cornerstones for the last few years to get back on track. Junior forward Ebony Rowe ranks second in the Sun Belt with an average of 19.7 points a game and is one of three MTSU players ranked among the top 15 in the league in scoring. Icelyn Elie ranks ninth at 13.5 points per game while Kortni Jones is 12th at 12.8 points a game.

The trio combined for 51 points last year when UNT narrowly missed breaking MTSU’s hold on the series. UNT’s Sara Stanley scored a team-high 14 points and Laura McCoy added 13 on a night when MTSU made key plays late in a 70-68 win.

Both Stanley and McCoy are expected to start tonight when UNT takes another crack at ending its slide against the Blue Raiders.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is bvito@dentonrc.com.

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