Women's basketball to rely on returnees, improved defense in 2016-17
It took 3.4 seconds for Central Michigan women’s basketball team to lose on an overtime buzzer-beater against Buffalo last March in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship in Cleveland.
“Coach doesn’t let us forget (3.4),” said sophomore forward Reyna Frost. “We won’t forget that. That was heartbreaking. Just thinking about it gets you tense. We just want to be able to come out on top in those games (like Buffalo).”
CMU was picked to win the MAC West Division and the MAC Tournament in this year’s MAC preseason poll. Head Coach Sue Guevara said there is an emphasis on defense for the 2016-17 Chippewas.
Guevara returns four of her five MAC Tournament starters from last season in sophomore guard Presley Hudson, junior guard Cassie Breen, junior forward Tinara Moore and Frost.
The Chippewas also bring back several bench players including MAC Sixth Player of the Year and senior forward Jewel Cotton, senior guard Jasmine Harris and junior guards Amani Corley and Aleah Swary.
“I like the energy of our team and they’re pretty coachable,” Guevara said. "Last year, we had a lot of inexperienced depth. This year, a lot of that experience is experienced. I think that’s only going to help us.”
Last season, the Chippewas compiled a 22-11 record, including a 14-4 record in the MAC, winning the MAC West Division title. After falling in the MAC Tournament title game, the Chippewas were invited to the WNIT but fell in the first round at home to IUPUI.
Hudson and Corley will replace Da'Jourie Turner at the point guard position. Hudson, who is the reigning MAC Freshman of the Year, led the team with 13.9 points per game and dropped 53 points in her first two games against Indiana State and Oakland.
Frost, Moore and Cotton lead a frontcourt that helped the Chippewas lead the MAC in rebounding last year, corralling 1,446 boards in 33 games. CMU averaged 43.8 rebounds per game — 7.5 rebounds more than its opponent.
Three newcomers join the team as freshmen. Guard Micaela Kelly comes in as a DePaul transfer, and Guevara said it is unknown whether she will be eligible to play. The team also added guard MacKenna Kelly and forward Averi Gamble.
CMU has a home-and-home against MAC powers Buffalo and Ohio to headline its conference slate. The Chippewas open the season at Notre Dame, who was ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press preseason poll on Tuesday.
“I think we’re all very hungry,” Hudson said. “We’ve got a good opponent in Notre Dame which we’re all excited for. It’ll be a good challenge for us to see how we do against them and see how we are against a big team like that.”