Injuries continue to hinder already shorthanded women’s basketball
Right when Central Michigan women’s basketball began to find a rhythm in the third quarter, play stopped suddenly as freshman Tiana Timpe clutched her already wrapped right knee near the half-court line.
After hopping off the court, Timpe never returned to the action. Instead, she spent the rest of the game on the bench with ice on her knee.
“It didn't look good, ” Head Coach Heather Oesterle said. "I don't know going forward. We have three games left, and we have six healthy bodies. So yeah, we'll see what she's like tomorrow, but she's in a lot of pain.”
Already shorthanded with Molly Davis and Kalle Martinez out due to injury, the loss of Timpe left the Chippewas with six players in uniform for the rest of the contest.
Facing the top team in the Mid-American Conference, CMU stumbled to overcome another obstacle as Toledo locked up a sweep of the season series with a 76-52 win on Wednesday.
“I was talking to (Toledo Head Coach Tricia Cullop) before the game and that starting four guards with number 33, they've played together for three years,” Oesterle said. “They're like a machine offensively, and I'm hoping someday, you know, we get our kids to that point. We're just not there. I mean, they play together so much. You know, when she was talking about last year, they didn't even make the MAC tournament. Now, look at it, they're in first place. You just keep working at it, but they are a very good team. They're a well-oiled machine that's played a lot of minutes together.”
Down the stretch, the Rockets' experienced core carried the load. Although its interior game struggled early, Toledo’s size allowed them to maintain a lead as the Chippewas labored offensively.
“It's been our problem all season when we struggled to score and I thought Toledo's size hurt us, for sure,” Oesterle said. “It wasn't so much when they were getting the ball inside but then they were also kicking it out because we were doubling. But it comes down to our offense and you know, being able to hit shots early. That second quarter really killed us.”
After exiting the first quarter with a 16-11 lead, the Rockets outscored CMU by 15 points in the second by working inside-out. The Chippewas tried to rally back throughout the second half but never recovered from those 10 minutes.
Normally reliant on the three-point shot, CMU’s shooting woes returned against Toledo. Although they shot 3-for-6 from three in the third quarter, the Chippewas finished 4-for-17 on the whole, resulting in their worst three-point percentage in five games.
"I like the fact that we have a lot of different people contributing offensively,” Oesterle said. “I just think you know, like shooting percentage-wise you just have to be better. You know, we have you know, like a couple of us shooting well, one game and then the rest of them won't, so it's just like finding some consistency within everybody really. I mean we got to get some consistent scorers, consistent shooting, I mean because you look at Toledo, they kicked in and out and hit nine threes. You know, they can do it both inside and outside. And I think (Smith) has been a pretty good solid inside weapon for us. But you know, sometimes we just really struggled to shoot the ball.”
Despite inconsistency from the floor, all seven CMU players recorded a basket in the contest.
“It's really important for everybody to touch the ball, for everybody to get a bucket, to have multiple scorers so it's not just focused on just one scorer like (Davis) or me or anybody,” Senior Jahari Smith said. “It's really important for us.”
Oesterle has stressed other players stepping up on the glass to help Smith and junior Anika Weekes, who led the team with seven rebounds against Toledo.
On Wednesday, freshman Lisa Tesson took that to heart. She finished the game with six rebounds while adding nine points, five assists and two steals.
“That's huge, especially on a big team like Toledo,” Smith said. “As soon as we take the post out, we get more guards in there rebounding, it's really big for us.”
Amid an eight-game losing streak, the Chippewas have not let losing distract them from their ultimate goal, restoring CMU women’s basketball to its former glory.
“They still come in with great attitudes, great energy, and practice and want to get better and they're putting extra work in,” Oesterle said. “And I'm really hoping that you know, these three games, we get some kind of momentum going into next year, but I'll tell you what, our freshmen class is ready to work this summer and get better to where we need to be. (Davis) and I had a conversation the other day, it's like, okay, we all need to be on a mission to get this program back to the top by next year. So I think, you know, I think they see the experience they're getting, the great experience they're getting, and I think they see that like okay, we're building for something really special."