Women’s basketball made its return to McGuirk Arena on Wednesday, beating Mid-American Conference opponent Northern Illinois, 65-60.
With the win, the Chippewas improved to 3-0 in MAC play and continued its recent domination of the Huskies. CMU has won nine of the last 10 meetings, and it was the fifth consecutive victory.
“We had to grind this game out,” said head coach Sue Guevara. “I give Northern Illinois all the credit in the world. They came out in the first few minutes and just shot the lights out on us.”
Poor shooting and undisciplined play were struggles for the Chippewas early in the game. Senior guard Niki DiGuilio missed her first four shots and the team gave up four turnovers in the game’s opening minutes.
However, CMU was quick to come back, and began to tighten up its game as the first half wore on, cutting the Huskie’s lead to just three. The shooting of junior guard Jessica Green, helped pull her team back from an early deficit, making a pair of 3-pointers in the process.
Green’s 3-pointers were the only shots from beyond the arc the Chippewas made all first half and it continued a negative trend as the game progressed, with DiGuilio only making one all night. Team shooting was 19 percent from long range.
“We have some very confident 3-point shooters and Niki (DiGuilio) had some great open chances,” Guevara said. “I’m not worried about it, it just didn’t go right for us tonight, but it will go Saturday.”
A change in halfs
Despite committing eight fouls and taking seven free-throw shots, the Chippewas only made three, posting a 42.9 percentage from the line.
Shooting from beyond the arc, an undisputed strength of the team, did not fair well in either half. DiGuilio and junior guard Crystal Bradford started off the half with a pair of quick threes, but after that, the team changed its strategy.
“I feel like we just come out hungrier in the second (half) than we do in the first,” said Bradford. “Our threes weren’t working for us, so we knew we had to penetrate and get inside.”
Driving the ball into the paint and getting rebounds marked a change for CMU as the game went on. The team scored 40 of its 65 points in the paint for the game, while shooting a 39.1 field goal percentage.
During the second half, the Chippewas and Huskies continued to trade points. From buckets to fouls, and buckets to steals, both teams sped up the pace of the game in the second half.
“I thought we did a much better job attacking from the slots and finishing,” Guevara said.
The victory was a team effort that saw important contributions from a variety of sources. Without 3-pointers, the team found its strengths from solid rebounding and defense.
Junior forward Jas’mine Bracey, had 14 rebounds and 10 points, while Bradford had 27 points to go along with 15 rebounds and three assists, giving her yet another double-double.
“Bracey and Bradford are two really great rebounders, and then I put in (Taylor) Johnson, who got us four big offensive rebounds,” Guevara said. “We need to have that intensity from the beginning (of the game).”
The Chippewas will be in action again at home at noon on Saturday to take on Bowling Green.