Women's basketball heads to Wright State for WNIT


womens_basketball

The women’s basketball team huddles together before a game against Eastern Michigan on Mar. 4 at McGuirk Arena.


It’s not the tournament head coach Sue Guevara and her team wanted to be in — but they’re happy to still be playing.

The Central Michigan women’s basketball team has had a week to regroup from a 67-63 loss to Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals on March 8.

The Chippewas (23-8, 15-3 MAC) were bounced from the tournament after entering as the No. 1 seed and MAC regular season champions.

Despite the loss, CMU received an automatic bid to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament and will face Wright State of the Horizon League in round one at 7 p.m. March 16 in Fairborn, Ohio.

“I’ve been pleased with practice (this week). I think we’ve gotten after it pretty well,” Guevara said. “The disappointment (from the loss) — if it’s there, it’s not lingering. It’s time to move on. It’s a new season again and you can’t live in the past. You have to move forward.”

The Raiders enter the WNIT 24-8 overall and 15-3 in the Horizon League. WSU lost to Detroit Mercy 71-52 in quarterfinals of its conference tournament.

Guevara said she had a few different scenarios in her mind on where her team would end up before the WNIT bracket was released Monday night, but decided not to waste energy thinking about where and who the Chippewas would be playing.

Once she found out it would be the Raiders, Guevara began scouting the team Tuesday morning and noticed a few similarities between them and a few MAC opponents CMU has faced.

“They remind me a lot of Ohio, Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois — all three of them combined,” Guevara said. “They’re athletic and they really drive the ball hard. They get up in your face and they’re physical, so it’s going to be a matter of keeping them off the glass and defending penetration.”

Central Michigan is one of the top teams in the MAC in rebounding, led by sophomore forward Reyna Frost who leads the conference with 11.1 rebounds per game.

Frost may be the best rounder in the MAC, but she will face two players who also get after it on the glass.

Wright State’s junior forward Lexi Smith leads the nation in offensive rebounds with 179. Her teammate, sophomore forward Symone Simmons, is third in the Horizon League averaging 9.2 rebounds per game.

The Raiders' offense is led by junior guard Chelsea Welch who averages 18.7 points per game, which ranks first in the conference.

This is CMU's third WNIT game in the past four seasons. The Chippewas are 0-7 in program history in postseason games outside of the MAC Tournament.

The Chippewas lost to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), 63-55 in the first round of last season’s WNIT and also fell to the Jaguars in the first round of the 2014 WNIT.

“At this point, it’s refreshing that you get to keep playing,” Guevara said. “The message is the same that it’s been all year: We need to be better the next time we go out."

Senior forward Jewel Cotton was on both teams that faced IUPUI in the past and said it will be nice to go up against a different squad.

“It’s like a breath of fresh air even though we’re going to Ohio again,” she said. “We’re going to a new university, so we’re trying to stay positive and look at all the great things that are happening for this team.”

Cotton said a win against the Raiders would not only lift the stigma of being winless in postseason play, but also add momentum for next year's squad. 

“It’ll add on to the legacy that we’ve already built here with team 49,” Cotton said. “It’ll be a stepping stone for team 50 next season. They’ll know it’s been done before and they can do it, but next year it’ll be dancing time.

“We’ll take care of (the WNIT) this year, and they’ll take care of the NCAA (next year).”

The winner of Thursday’s matchup will play the winner of Michigan and Kent State in the second round. The second round will be March 18-21. Follow @CMLifeSports on Twitter for live coverage.


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