Chippewa women struggle with consistency in setback to WMU


GENERAL CAPTION: The CMU Chippewas women's basketball team suffered a disappointing 79-58 loss at the hands of the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies Dec. 7 in McGuirk Arena. 

Central Michigan coach Heather Oesterle wore the emotion typical of a coach after suffering a tough loss to a rival.

But this loss to Western Michigan, a 58-44 defeat Wednesday in McGuirk Arena, felt different. Because Oesterle thought her team was past the issues that reared their ugly head once more. 

After two games scoring in the 70-point range with improved shooting percentages, the Chippewas (3-9, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) dealt with shooting woes that plagued them in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Against the Broncos, CMU shot just 27 percent overall and went 6-for-34 on 3-point attempts.

"This one really hurts," Oesterle said after the game. "I thought we were on the right track. I thought we were getting better every game. We played really well against Buffalo, we played really well against Northern (Illinois) and then this (game) looked like the team that started the season. 

“We struggled to score, and I just told them I'm looking for consistency out of people. Molly (Davis) can't score 32 points a game for us, it's impossible. She's gonna have off days, but who else is gonna step up and score and be consistent shooting the ball?"

Davis, a junior guard from Midland, has indeed been the straw that stirs the drink. In the first two MAC games, she scored 23 and 32 points, respectively. Against WMU, she had an off night with 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting.

The Chippewas couldn't come up with the production necessary to steal a win. Just six Chippewas scored, with only senior Jahari Smith joining Davis in double figures. Smith had a night for the record books, securing 23 rebounds and setting a new career-high for the second straight game.

Besides Smith, Davis, senior Kalle Martinez and redshirt junior Anika Weekes, the Chippewa rotation is built on underclassmen. The youth showed against the Broncos, with four freshmen combining for 15 points on 5-of-20 shooting.

Each freshman has shown flashes: Tiana Timpe has made a team-best 29 3-pointers; Hanna Knoll and Lisa Tesson aggressively attack the basket and provide occasional outside shooting pop; Rebekah Gordon has received increased minutes as her rebounding has improved.

The problem is the team, and the standard set within the program, needs more than just flashes. With the run the Chippewas have been on recently — three straight NCAA tournament appearances and two MAC regular season titles in three seasons — they need more consistency to maintain the bar that has been set.

"I'm trying to stay patient with them," Oesterle said. "I think that there's glimpses, but there's not enough, they're not freshmen anymore. They've had so much experience. When it comes to MAC play, and they've been through non-conference play and the minutes they're playing, we need more from them. I just said that to them, so it's not like I'm hiding anything. We have got to have more consistency out of our freshmen, and I'm looking for more competitiveness."

On Wednesday, Oesterle was forced to play a unique lineup with Davis and Smith on the bench due to foul trouble. Martinez played alongside the quartet of freshmen, and WMU went on a 15-0 run to close the half and turn an eight-point CMU lead to a seven-point Bronco advantage.

Davis scored the Chippewas' last points of the half on a free throw with 6:09 remaining in the second quarter. She remained in until the 2:35 mark, when she picked up her second foul and was replaced by Timpe.

CMU couldn't get going after that.

"I'm trying to stay patient," Oesterle said. "Because it was my fault. The run (WMU) had in the second quarter, I had four freshmen out there with Kalle Martinez. That's when they went on their run in the second quarter. I just had nobody else to put in, because Jahari had two (fouls), Molly had two and I wanted to save them for the second half."

Development has never been an issue for the Chippewas, as players turn into stars as they grow with the program. Not every recruit is capable of being an All-MAC player when they first step on campus.

Still, Oesterle needs more contributions from her young players for the program to remain championship contenders.