Women's basketball: UNT loses Hooker as Tech visits

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North Texas already was short-handed heading into its game against Louisiana Tech this afternoon at the Super Pit.

Now, UNT will be without another player who had contributed off the bench late this season. Taylor Hooker, a Tulsa transfer who played in 11 games and recently gave birth, has left the team.

“She made that decision and is going to do other things,” UNT coach Mike Petersen said. “She has a lot going on.”

The departure of Hooker adds to a growing list of players whom UNT has lost this season, mostly to injury. Guards BreAnna Dawkins and Candice Adams are out for the year, as are forwards Joh’Vonna Darrington and Acheil Tac.

UNT (12-15, 6-8 Conference USA) will look to overcome the challenges those injuries pose and build on a late-season run against the Lady Techsters (8-19, 3-11). UNT heads into the 2 p.m. game having won two of its last three, including an upset win over UTEP, which is in a three-way tie for second place in the conference.

“We have gone to the next player up,” Petersen said of UNT’s approach to overcoming the loss of so many key players. “One of the things this group has done really well is that the players who are not playing are practicing hard. Eboniey Jeter is a good example of that.”

Jeter took on a larger role after UNT lost Tac to a knee injury in a Feb. 8 win over Old Dominion and excelled, averaging 10.7 points per game in her last three outings.

UNT already was leaning heavily on a few of its key backcourt starters and will continue to do so with Hooker out of the mix. The situation is one that the Mean Green’s key players say they can handle.

“We are going to be a little shallower, but it hasn’t hurt us much so far,” UNT guard Laura McCoy said. “As long as we continue to push through fatigue and work hard, we will be fine.”

UNT’s backcourt will face a bigger challenge than expected against Louisiana Tech, which is expected to have Kelia Shelton available. The guard, who transferred from Clemson and led the Lady Techsters with 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last year, has yet to play this season.

Petersen said Shelton became eligible just in time to play UNT after sitting out Tech’s first 27 games. Tech has leaned on junior forward Whitney Frazier, who is averaging 16.2 points, to power its offense in the absence of Shelton.

Handling a team that will have another one of its key players available would bolster UNT’s chances of earning a bye in the upcoming conference tournament. The top four seeds in the tournament will receive a double bye, while seeds five through eight receive a first-round bye.

UNT, which is in a tie with Florida International for ninth place, would be guaranteed a bye by winning its last two regular-season games. Splitting those games would leave the Mean Green with a shot at a first-round bye.

UNT feels good about its chances of reaching that goal, even after losing Hooker.

“We are playing some of our best basketball and are doing a good job of competing and executing,” McCoy said. “That is where you want to be heading into the conference tournament.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.


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