Sweet 16: Women's basketball faces Oregon in third round of NCAA Tournament
After upsetting No. 3 Ohio State, head coach Sue Guevara and Central Michigan women's basketball danced to the cupid shuffle in the locker room — celebrating the team's historic NCAA Tournament run.
“I tried to do the cha-cha on the court but I don’t know what the cha-cha is, so I was just moving my feet and my hips,” Guevara said. “I walked in the room and Tinara (Moore) was already dancing. As soon as I said 'to the right, to the right,' they knew what I was doing.”
The No. 11 Chippewas upset No. 6 LSU to win their first tournament in program history, and then dominated No. 3 Ohio State 95-78 in Columbus, Ohio.
They now find themselves in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament, for the first time in program history.
CMU (30-4, 17-1 MAC) heads to Spokane, Washington to face No. 2 Oregon (32-4, 16-2 PAC 12). The game is being televised on ESPN at 6 p.m. March 24.
“This team has never been complacent for 34 games,” said head coach Sue Guevara.
Although CMU has been tabbed as a tournament “Cinderella” by ESPN and other sports commentators, the Chippewas are confident heading into the Sweet 16.
“We’ve worked hard, we knew we could do this and believe in each other,” said starting guard Presley Hudson. “Working together and sticking with each other, that’s what we’ve been doing all season.”
How They Got Here
After defeating the Buffalo Bulls in the Mid-American Conference Championship, Guevara and her team earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In the first round of the tournament, MAC Player of the Year and senior Tinara Moore finished with a team-high 25 points as CMU upset LSU on March 17.
"I'm so grateful to be in the NCAA Tournament, I'm so grateful that we got this win under our belt," Moore said postgame. "I'm also staying composed because we have another game to go."
Two days later, CMU went on a 20-1 run in in the second quarter to silence over 3,000 Ohio State fans and advance after winning the second NCAA Tournament game in program history.
"We withstood the punch in the first quarter," Guevara said. "This team will not fold."
Senior Cassie Breen, who finished the game with 22 points going 5-of-9 from 3-point range, plotted to douse Guevara with water after not getting an opportunity to do so after the MAC Championship.
Once the celebration concluded and Guevara dried up, she called fellow MAC head coach Felisha Legette-Jack, whose Buffalo team also advanced to the Sweet 16.
“Our team was happy for them and they were very happy for us,” Guevara said. “No. 1 and two in our league beat Florida State and Ohio State on their home floors, that’s big.”
In the Sweet 16, the Chippewas will again face a Power Five conference champion in Oregon, after beating the Big Ten Conference Champion Ohio State.
After winning 16 conference games, Oregon was named the Pacific Coast Conference Regular Season Champions before going on to capture the conference’s tournament championship.
“They are very similar to what we are,” Guevara said. “They love the transition and they love the fast style of play.”
Similar to CMU, the Ducks have five players who average double-digits in scoring. Three of those five were honored as all-conference players in guards Maite Cazorla, Sabrina Ionescu and forward Ruthy Hebard.
Oregon has the eighth highest scoring offense in the country averaging 82.6 points per game, just behind CMU, which averages 82.7 points per game. The Ducks also led the Pac-12 in scoring.
In addition to leading their conference in scoring, Oregon leads the Pac-12 in scoring margin (+19.7), field-goal percentage (50.2 percent), 3-point field goal percentage (40.6 percent) and assists per game (19.4).
Matchups To Watch
Ionescu is an All-American guard from Walnut Creek, California. The sophomore averages 17.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
Ionescu stands at 5-foot-11 and will most likely line up against 5-foot-6 Hudson from the Chippewas. Despite the height differential, Hudson remains confident in her game.
“It’s a little harder but I’m getting used to it,” Hudson said. “I’ve got two under my belt now (facing bigger guards) so I just need to keep working.”
Hudson has a shooting range that allows her to stretch the floor against big opponents. After the MAC Championship, Hudson was asked if she had a range. She said no.
The junior guard from Wayland, Michigan ranks Top 10 in the country with 122 3-pointers made.
It’s not often that 6-foot-3 Moore has a height disadvantage, but she will against 6-foot-4 forward Ruthy Hebard.
The reigning two-time MAC Defensive Player of Year will guard Hebard, who averages 17.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
“We’re versatile in the post. We don’t have to do low post, we shoot threes, we can go high post,” Moore said, on the challenges of facing taller post players.
Hebard has not attempted a 3-point shot this season, so it will be important for Moore to contain her inside for CMU to come away victorious, she said.
In the Ohio State game, where the Chippewas hit 7-of-8 3-point attempts in the third quarter, Moore hit two straight 3-pointers for the first time in her career.