'Play with fire': Heather Oesterle wants more from seniors, leaders
Heather Oesterle coaches with fire in her heart.
Oesterle, the second-year head coach for CMU's women's basketball team, encourages her players and sometimes shows emotions on the bench.
In a Jan. 20 loss to Eastern Michigan at McGuirk Arena, a supposed double-dribble call in the third quarter had Oesterle pleading with the official for the call. She quickly calmed the situation with a smile behind her mask.
After losing three straight Mid-American Conference games, and going into a two-game road stretch beginning on Jan. 23 at Akron, Oesterle wants her team to play with the same emotion.
"We have to get back to playing Central Michigan basketball," Oesterle said. "What that means is we have balance."
CMU has a huge target on its back with all of the success in the MAC it has seen in the last four years.
Oesterle said she knows every team will give her team everything in each game but it needs to find balance to battle through and find the way to win.
"We've been at the top of the MAC, but right now we're going through a slump," Oesterle said. "I told the team that we want to be playing our best basketball in March.
"We're not playing our best basketball right now."
The Chippewas also have struggled in the first quarter in the last three games.
In the last three games -- at Northern Illinois and home games against Ohio and EMU -- CMU has scored 12, 14 and 15 points in the first quarter. In the last two games, the Chippewas outscored each team throughout the final three quarters.
Part of the struggle is 3-point shooting, CMU shots just 15.4 (4-26) against the Eagles. The struggle on offense leads to struggles on the defensive end. Shots start to fall, then the intensity turns up late in games.
Oesterle said she wants to see the team turn up the intensity earlier in games.
"It has to start at the beginning of games," Oesterle said. " ... We're forcing to try to do it right now. ... When you're shooting with confidence, you take quick shots -- which we usually like to do -- it's just not falling for us."
Especially with the offense, Oesterle said she needs more balance to utilize the inside-outside game that makes the Chippewas dangerous.
"We have to get ball reversals and make them play defense," Oesterle said. "We have to hope their defense breaks down and we can get (inside opportunities)."
Another way Oesterle can find a way to mix it up is changing the lineup.
Senior guard Micaela Kelly, sophomore guard Molly Davis, senior guard Maddy Watters, junior forward Jahari Smith and Bussell have started almost all of the team's games dating back to last season. Watters missed the season-opener at Michigan with an injury, but has played in every game since.
Oesterle said she may mix in junior guard Anika Weekes to give a different look on both ends of the floor.
"There has to be more fire from the team," Oesterle said. "Maybe changing the lineup will help."
Leaders stepping up
CMU has seen its leaders – Kelly, Davis, Bussell, to name a few – step up in the past when the team needed a boost. Davis, put up 18 points in the first half against the Eagles but was held to two points in the second.
While Oesterle said she is not putting the entire burden on the seniors or just a few players, she told the team after the loss to EMU that she wants the team leaders to step up to turn the tide for the Chippewas.
"They're a veteran team, but I told our senior class they need to step up," Oesterle said. "I expect a lot more out of them, our team is relying on them to bring it everyday.
"We just have to get the taste of winning, then we'll be good."