Defense and physical play pave way for winning streak

Women’s basketball came into the season looking to shoot the lights out.

Through the team’s non-conference schedule and its first handful of Mid-American Conference games, the message was clear: get open and shoot the long ball. Now as the season’s second half goes on, defense and rebounding have become the top priorities.

During the team’s current 12-game winning streak, the Chippewas are more aggressive in the paint and low-post areas, leading to a high-rebound tally.

“Everyone has an off game every once in a while, but, as a shooter, you have to keep getting your reps in and go in with confidence,” said junior guard, Kerby Tamm.

Senior guard Niki DiGuilio became the program leader in points scored and 3-pointers made early in the season. DiGuilio, junior guard Crystal Bradford and junior forward Taylor Johnson each reached the 1,000-point career scoring mark.

The Chippewas have had to rely on their defense to pull out the victory more often than not as of late. Shooters like DiGuilio and Tamm have seen their shots go into a funk.

CMU is averaging 47.6 rebounds per game this season. The team is showing different ways to dominate its opponents even if the jump shot is missing. Leading the charge is junior forward Jas’Mine Bracey.

“Jas’Mine (Bracey) has been a pretty good rebounder for us,” said CMU head coach Sue Guevara. “I think her hands have gotten better so she’s been able to keep balls alive, (while) not playing volleyball with the basketball. She’s a big body too and she’s using it, I see her constantly battling for boards.”

Bracey’s defensive play has been a catalyst for the Chippewa’s offense throughout its undefeated conference run. Crashing the boards and coming down with rebounds paves the way for CMU to go into transition offensively.

The Saginaw native is second on the team in offensive rebounds with 134.

Leading the team in rebounds is Bradford. With 157 rebounds so far this season, the team's most outspoken player has begun to buy into the defense-first type of play. She has also been passing the ball more, which has guided her to timely scoring and a pair of triple-doubles.

“I’ve been looking for open people all year, but even more so recently,” Bradford said. “Getting a triple-double felt good, but it just feels really good sharing with my team. It feels good when we’re all in sync.”

In CMU’s home victory last weekend, the team proved its defensive resurgence is no fluke. Beating Buffalo 74-63 on Saturday, Bradford and Bracey continued to crash the boards.  Against the Bulls, the duo combined for 27 rebounds.


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