Women’s Basketball Preview: Conference USA tournament

No. 12 FAU and No. 13 North Texas face off on the tournament’s opening day

Redshirt+senior+guard+Ali+Gorrell+dribbles+into+the+paint+during+her+team%27s+67-62+loss+on+Feb.+6+to+the+University+of+Alabama+at+Birmingham.+Mohammed+F+Emran+%7C+Contributing+Photographer

Redshirt senior guard Ali Gorrell dribbles into the paint during her team's 67-62 loss on Feb. 6 to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Mohammed F Emran | Contributing Photographer

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor

Florida Atlantic women’s basketball earned the No. 12 seed and now has a matchup with the No. 13 North Texas Mean Green in the 2016 Conference USA tournament on Tuesday, March 8.

FAU (14-15, 6-12 C-USA) won its most recent game Saturday night against UAB, and has won three of its last four games entering the tournament.

North Texas (10-18, 5-13 C-USA) has been drifting in the opposite direction, dropping nine of its last 11 games — including a 71-61 defeat from the hands of FAU on Feb. 20.

FAU made 9-of-23 three-point shots in that game — nine of its now Conference USA-record of 284 on the season.

Senior guard Ali Gorrell scored a team-high 15 points. Sophomore forward Sasha Cedeno, who made 4-of-5 threes, added 14 of her own in February’s game.

Senior forward Acheil Tac kept North Texas competitive in the previous matchup as the Owls struggled to keep her out of the paint; she totaled 25 points and 14 rebounds.

Head coach Kellie Lewis-Jay’s team will have to keep Tac out of the paint while also controlling junior guard Kelsey Criner, whose 12.9 points per game is the 13th most in Conference USA.

Path to the championship:

If the Owls can get past the Mean Green on Tuesday, they’ll be rewarded with a game the following afternoon against Old Dominion. Old Dominion defeated FAU in their lone matchup of the season, 85-45 on Jan. 28.

Next in line for the Owls would be the No. 4 seeded Charlotte 49ers, who beat FAU by six on Jan. 30. A win over Charlotte would put the Owls into the semifinals and just two wins away from a conference championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Prediction:

Tac will once again be a force down low on the offensive end for the Mean Green, surely gaining her team second-chance shot opportunities and placing the Owls in foul trouble.

However, she tends to disappear on the defensive end at times as North Texas is last in the conference in blocked shots.

Expect Gorrell and fellow senior guard Morgan Robinson to drive the lane early and open up opportunities for the three-point barrage late in the game. This will allow the Owls to pull away and set up a second round matchup with Old Dominion.

Don’t expect the run of success to continue much further.

ODU holds its opponents to the fourth lowest three-point percentage in Conference USA. They’ll limit the Owls behind the arc as they did in February’s matchup when FAU made only 7-of-33 3-pointers.

Expect the Owls’ season to end on Wednesday with a loss to ODU.

You can view the entire Conference USA bracket here.

The Owls and Mean Green will kick off the Conference USA tournament at 11 a.m. in Birmingham, Alabama.

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. To contact him regarding this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.