Coach Mike Petersen looked back recently and started counting near misses for North Texas.
There was a three-point loss to Conference USA power Southern Miss, a loss to Texas-San Antonio on a 25-foot buzzer-beater and a one-point loss to Tulane in which the Mean Green lost when Tiffany Dale scored off a missed free throw with 4.4 seconds remaining.
Those losses have hurt, but they have UNT feeling like it isn’t too far off from where it needs to be heading into this week’s Conference USA tournament in El Paso.
“It shapes up like our whole season,” Petersen said. “If we play like we are capable of playing, we can beat anybody. I looked the other day and if we played 38-minute games instead of 40-minute games, instead of being 12-17 we would be 20-9. We have to learn to finish.”
UNT’s last opportunity to reach that goal comes this week. The Mean Green enters the tournament as the No. 11 seed and will face Louisiana Tech, the No. 14 seed, at 6 p.m. today at Memorial Gym.
The Mean Green will need to win five games in five days to extend its season.
UNT (12-17) believes it is capable of challenging for the title largely because of a few key wins and a host of near misses it believes shows it can compete with any team in the tournament.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we can win the whole thing,” forward Briesha Wynn said. “We have that potential.”
The Mean Green will look to capitalize on that potential, beginning with its opening-round game against the Lady Techsters (10-19). The Mean Green lost to Louisiana Tech 67-54 in its second-to-last regular-season game.
“I like it,” senior guard Laura McCoy said of the matchup. “They have not won as many games as we have. They did beat us last time, but this will give us a chance to redeem ourselves.”
UNT’s chances to capitalize will depend largely on its post duo of Alexis Hyder and Briesha Wynn. Hyder is averaging 11.4 points a game, while Wynn is adding 11.2 points a game and leads the Mean Green with 6.9 rebounds a game.
Whitney Frazier leads Louisiana Tech with an average of 16.4 points a game and is one of four players averaging double figures for the the Lady Techsters.
Frazier scored a game-high 23 points and Perry LuLu hit four 3s for Louisiana Tech in its win over UNT.
“Louisiana Tech did a very good job of attacking us with the bounce,” Petersen said. “Perry hit some 3s she doesn’t normally make that got them going a little bit and banked one in. Then Frazier got loose on the glass and we couldn’t control her.”
UNT saw the Lady Techsters pull away but has been in more than a few close games this year. The way it has played in those games has given the Mean Green confidence heading into the tournament.
“We lost our last game, but we competed with one of the top teams in the tournament and had a chance to win,” McCoy said of UNT’s loss to Southern Miss. “That was a confidence boost.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.