After tough back-to-back road games against Bowling Green and Ball State, the women’s basketball team returns home Sunday for a game against defensive-minded Buffalo.
The Bulls come in, statistically, as one of the best defensive teams in the Mid-American Conference, though their 7-14 overall record as of Thursday afternoon might not show it.
They have been holding MAC opponents to just 57.5 points per game, good for fifth in the conference. One of the keys to their strong defense has been the interior.
Led by 6-foot-2 sophomore center Christa Baccas, Buffalo is No. 2 in the MAC in blocked shots (4.3 per game).
The Bulls’ perimeter defense has been good this season. Buffalo has been holding teams to low field goal percentages both inside and outside the three-point line. Opponents have struggled against the Bulls, shooting just 33 percent from the field.
Their defense goes beyond the perimeter as well. Teams are shooting at only 21 percent from three, which is good for No. 2 in the conference. The defense has been closing the passing lanes and bothering ball handlers, averaging 9.4 steals a game.
As for offense, the Bulls are in the middle of the pack. Freshman guard Mackenzie Loesing leads the fifth-best scoring offense in the MAC (62.4 points per game), averaging 13.1 points per game. An important part of her contribution comes from the free-throw line, where she is No. 5 in the MAC (.788).
Buffalo relies on team play and rebounding. Sharing the ball is a big key for them, as they are averaging 14 assists per game, tied with the Chippewas for No. 4 in the MAC.
Where Buffalo strives is on the boards. It averages a MAC-best, 29 defensive rebounds per game, and the team is strong on the offensive end as well, averaging 13.3 per game, which is second-best in the MAC.
A big key to Buffalo’s rebounding success has been Baccas. She is able to use her size to her advantage, averaging 10.4 rebounds per game, and is in the top-five for both offensive and defensive rebounding. She leads the MAC in offensive rebounds (3.5 per game) and No. 3 in defensive rebounds (7.6 per game).
Sophomore guard Crystal Bradford has led her team to one of the best records in the conference. Bradford will look to continue to add to her impressive numbers as the season begins to wind down.
Bradford is averaging a double-double, including a MAC-best 18.1 points per game, and is No. 2 in rebounding, averaging 10.8 per game.
In the teams’ last four meetings both, have won two games, with neither team winning by more than eight.
Last season, CMU made the long journey to Buffalo, N.Y., and won in a defensive battle, 66-60.
Junior guard Niki DiGuilio did her thing, making four three-pointers and leading the team with 12 points.
Maybe playing the Bulls is what DiGuilio needs, in her last five games, dating to the Bowling Green loss, she is 3-for-14 (21 percent) from beyond the arc.
Buffalo played the Falcons Thursday night, while the Chippewas traveled to take on the Cardinals.
Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at McGuirk Arena