Women’s basketball began the 2013-14 season with the second-toughest “strength of schedule” in the nation.
The defending Mid-American Conference champions have had the daunting challenge of going up against some of the best non-conference competition in the country, including games against ranked opponents Kentucky, Duke and Notre Dame.
In spite of the rigorous schedule demanding a quick learning curve, Central Michigan performed well in non-conference action. With the conclusion of the winter break, the team will enter the second phase of their season, focused on conference play.
“I feel like we’re getting better, despite the non-conference schedule and I would give us a grade of B+,” said senior Niki DiGuilio.
The guard is one of several leaders the Chippewas will depend on in the coming months as they fight to beat out their conference opponents in the regular season.
Head coach Sue Guevara’s confidence in DiGuilio appears to be at an all-time high.
“She’s been in this program for four years now and has been all around the MAC,” Guevara said. ”She’s a senior, so she is doing what she is supposed to be doing, playing with a great deal of confidence and not second-guessing herself out there.”
After missing the first game of the season against UMass due to a violation of team rules, junior guard Crystal Bradford has not missed a beat. As of Jan. 4, Bradford was averaging 20.6 points per game and a field goal percentage of 42.9.
This comes while averaging 28.3 minutes a game.
Bradford’s intense style of play has lifted the team this season, and her teammates have appreciated her ability to come through when the game is on the line.
“She’s a load of fun, that describes her in every way,” DiGuilio said. “Sometimes you have to hone her in, but she’s a phenomenal teammate.”
As a gold medalist for team USA in the 2013 World University Games, Bradford had a busy offseason, but it prepared her for the Chippewas 2013-14 run.
Despite her knack for the leadership role, this is not a one-woman team and nobody knows that as well as Bradford.
Sophomore guard Da’Jourie Turner has emerged into a quasi-leadership role for CMU. Turner averages 16 minutes a game and has made the most of that time.
The Warren native has been a quiet, yet consistent contributor for the team this year, averaging a modest 6.1 points per game. Coming in just under the 40 percent mark in field-goal shooting at 39.3 percent, Turner hopes that as she continues to compete, the percentage will only increase.
With the combined experience of Bradford and DiGuilio, and Turner’s energy, the Chippewas are making a name for themselves as a tough matchup for any MAC team this season.