Women's basketball prepares to duel undefeated Ohio on road
A season ago, the top two women's basketball teams in the Mid-American Conference were Central Michigan and Buffalo, and the expectations were the same for the 2018-19 campaign.
But when CMU senior forward Reyna Frost checked the box score and noticed Ohio's 74-71 come-from-behind overtime victory against Buffalo on Jan. 5, she took notice of the difficulty coach Bob Boldon's group presents.
The Chippewas (10-3, 1-0 MAC) take the Bobcats (12-0, 1-0 MAC) at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at The Convocation Center in Athens.
Only two other teams in the nation – Louisville and N.C. State – remain undefeated along with Ohio. Junior guard Amani Burke registered her first career double-double and sophomore guard Cece Hooks poured in 21 points to pace the Bobcats against the Bulls just a few days ago.
"It's the biggest game we're going to play," Frost said. "We have to stop them from scoring. Everyone on their team can score, but they have to stop us too.
"I saw Ohio beat Buffalo, and I was surprised. I didn't think it would happen."
Ohio's 12-0 start is the best in program history and 12-straight wins ties Boldon's longest streak while with the Bobcats. Of her 21 points, Hooks had 16 of them in the second half to spark a comeback, which included 54 total points after halftime.
Senior guard Dominique Doseck had 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 from downtown against Buffalo.
From what CMU senior guard Presley Hudson noticed on film, Ohio is aggressive on defense, like to trap opponents in a full-court press and are fearless with physicality.
The clear counter is patience, and Hudson plans to make it happen.
"For guards, we have to be better defending and getting rebounds," Hudson said. "Reyna can't get all the rebounds. I mean, she can, but it'd be nice for her to have some help."
The Chippewas are fresh off a 94-71 conference opening takedown of Akron on Jan. 5. Frost carried the team with 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
In the nonconference, CMU took on South Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Virginia, Quinnipiac, Louisville and Miami (FL), of which all participated in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Of those six, coach Sue Guevara's team took down Western Kentucky, Virginia, Quinnipiac and Miami.
Due to the nonconference successes, Guevara is not worried about the threat Ohio poses.
"We're prepared for it," Guevara said. "They have five weapons, and that's kind of fun because we have five weapons. Whenever we've played Ohio, it's been a good, physical game. We both love the three ball and getting to the free throw line."
Since the fall semester ended, the Chippewas traveled to play in the Miami Holiday Classic and, most recently, opened league play. CMU's resiliency throughout the early stages of the season has stood out to Guevara.
The most improved player off the bench is sophomore forward Kyra Bussell, who is currently averaging 7.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. She's provided quality minutes when starting freshman center Jahari Smith is on the bench.
"We've been able to bounce back from a loss or not a good performance," Guevara said. "I've been able to see that quarter-to-quarter in a game. Our bench has produced for us, which is something we talked about earlier in the nonconference."
Including CMU's game against Ohio, the Chippewas are on the road for four of their next five games in the MAC. Following Ohio, the next team up is Northern Illinois at 2 p.m. Jan. 12.
Guevara said she's going to make sure the team remains focused on books and basketball.
"I don't worry about it because I can't change it," Guevara said of the early road schedule. "I focus on what we have right now.
"We will have books out and study tables. There's nothing wrong with that."