No. 11 CMU vs. No. 6 Oklahoma: Guevara, team ready for NCAA tournament
Women’s basketball will begin its NCAA tournament journey at 11:10 a.m. Saturday against Oklahoma in Columbus, Ohio.
CMU comes in as winners of eight of its last 10 games and fresh off of a Mid-American Conference championship that made the team tournament eligible.
These past few weeks have shown what the Chippewas defense can do. In their past five games, including the MAC tournament, they have held their opponents to just 58.8 points per game.
“Our defense has really stepped up,” said head coach Sue Guevara. “Whether we were full-court trapping or half-court trapping, the pressure we’ve been able to put on the basketball and making it difficult for people to receive the basketball … how we’ve been able to execute our game plan defensively, I’ve been very pleased.”
That same intensity on the defensive side of the ball will have to be there on Saturday against a tough offensive team in the Sooners, one of the best offenses in the Big 12.
Guevara is concerned with containing the entire Oklahoma team, but three players stick out to her: junior shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg, junior forward Joanna McFarland and 6-foot-6 junior center Nicole Griffin.
“They’ve got McFarland who is a tough rebounder; she’s like a taller Taylor Johnson,” Guevara said. “And they’ve got a 6-foot-6 kid that is a defensive changer in the paint. She can block shots, she can run the floor, she’ll be a little challenging for us, but it’s not like we haven’t seen that kind of size before.”
In addition to their size in the low post, the Sooners also boast one of the best shooting guards in the Big 12 in Ellenberg.
“They’ve got a really nice guard, who’s one of the best three-point shooters in the country,” Guevara said. “She reminds me a lot of Naama Shafir out of Toledo.”
In addition to containing a potent Oklahoma offense, CMU must make sure its own offense is ready. For that, it will be looking for players like senior guard Brandie Baker, junior forward Taylor Johnson and MAC tournament MVP sophomore guard Crystal Bradford, who all made big contributions in the conference tourney.
One crucial portion of their offense comes at the free-throw line, and Guevara couldn’t stress how important it is that her team makes it to the line early and often.
“We have to make sure that we get to the line; we have to make the officials make a call,” Guevara said. “For us to stand out and just shoot threes isn’t going to win games for us; we have to get to the free-throw line.”
After consistent free-throw shooting in the MAC tournament, it’s no wonder why Guevara wants her team to get there as much as possible. During the tournament, the team missed only five free throws, shooting 87.5 percent from the line.
With CMU offering a free ride for its students to the game Saturday morning, Guevara hopes to see a lot of fans in the stands and said it would mean a lot to the team.
“If we can have a rowdy student section, that would be great,” Guevara said. “It would mean so much to our program, and it would really give us that sixth player in St. John Arena.”
Guevara and her team feel confident that they can pull out the win as long as they stick to some important keys to the game.
“Defense and rebounding are going to be key,” Guevara said. “They’re a big team, but our ability to pressure the basketball and our ability to limit them to one shot, make free-throws and keep our poise, those are going to be the key.”
If the team pulls off the upset, it will play either No. 3 UCLA or No. 14 Stetson on Monday for a chance at the Sweet 16.
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