Preview: CMU women's basketball prepares for big season opener

Freshman guard Taylor Anderson looks to pass the ball during the game against Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday, Feb. 15 in McGuirk Arena. Anderson contributed 6 points to the 83-80 win over Miami (Ohio).

After losing their top two players last year, the Central Michigan women’s basketball team looks to revamp the program amidst a new coaching staff. The team went 6-23 overall and 4-14 in conference last season under former head coach Heather Oesterle. 

The team is going into this season with a 75-61 win over Davenport in an exhibition game on Oct. 29. The start of this season will feature nine non-conference games before opening Mid-American Conference play against Bowling Green on Jan. 3. 

The Chippewas will look to gain road wins as their non-conference season begins. All eyes point to the new head coach, Kristin Haynie as she hopes to navigate this years team to a winning season. 

Meet the players

The Chippewas collected three new players in addition to their retuning seven to fill the roster this season. Guard Tamara Ortiz and center Desrae Kyles both begin their freshman season at CMU. As for forward Madisen Wardell, she debuts her first season as a Chippewa after transferring from DePaul University.

As the season begins, it’s obvious that there will not be one player standing out over the others. Haynie discussed how sharing the load has become a big thing for this new team. 

“This is going to be a season that’s full of committee,” Haynie said. “We’re not going to have one great player score 29 points.”

Biggest challenges

One of the team’s biggest challenges that will potentially affect their season is numbers. This year, there’s a small roster of only 10 players. 

This may prove to be challenging when playing teams with larger rosters, especially with tough opponents in the upcoming season. 

Additionally, with Haynie being the new head coach, it will take time for the players to put their trust in her. This team has only had a few months to form a relationship with each other, which will be tested as the season starts.

“It takes time for people,” Haynie said. “We’re strangers to them. It’s challenging, but surprising that they bought in at a quicker rate than expected, which is awesome.”

Biggest advantages

The defense for CMU has been their best asset and is the biggest advantage for the team this season. In their exhibition game against Davenport, the Chippewas had 27 defensive rebounds that contributed to their win.

“I think we’re really honing in on defense,” forward Nadege Jean said. “We’re taking that very seriously this year.”

To Haynie, defense and rebounds are the team’s identity and will continue to use that strength to collect wins throughout this season. With their defensive rebounds also came their offensive rebounds. CMU successfully had a total of 51 rebounds over Davenport, 24 of those being offensive. 

“You can’t control if the ball goes in every night,” Haynie said. “We’re going to have times where we struggle scoring, but we can never struggle on defense. It’s an energy, an attitude, it’s an effort thing.”

The Chippewas will look to open the regular season against South Alabama on Thursday at 8 p.m. 

Here are some takeaways from the Chippewas 75-61 victory against Davenport on Sunday, Oct. 29. 

Defense is this team’s identity

As the team is approaching the season, Haynie has said the Chippewas’ defense is their identity as they have put a focus on improving on the defensive end. 

The CMU defense struggled to open the game against Davenport as the Panthers offense found success beyond the three-point line, going 5-for-8 from outside the arc in the first quarter. The offensive attack gave Davenport the 25-19 lead heading into the second. 

“That identity is still there,” Haynie said. “That's always our identity, but we still have a long way to go. We didn't press as much as we wanted to press. We didn't really find our matchups coming out of the press, a lot of people were open, so we just have work to do.” 

However, the defense for the Chippewas came alive in the second half and held the Davenport offense to one three-pointer. 

“We just said at half time we got to protect the three point line,” Haynie said. “And we got to make them do something different other than getting wide open threes. So we told them, ‘if they give up wide open threes, you know, you're probably going to come out.'” 

Along with taking away opportunities at the three-point line, the defense also held the Panthers to 22 second-half points while securing five steals and four blocks. 

Leading on the defensive end was Taylor Anderson who ended the game with a team-leading 10 total rebounds, two steals and a block. 

After a slow start, the Chippewas found their stride and showed that the defense will be a strong suit as they head into regular season play. 

Offensive and defensive rebounds

A turning point in the game for the Chippewas came from the team's ability to secure rebounds. CMU dominated in rebounds as they held 51 total over Davenport's 35. 

The Chippewas held almost an even split in offensive and defense rebounds with 24 offensive and 27 defensive. 

"Defending and rebounding wins games," Haynie said. "(The team) did a good job being relentless on the boards. We just have to keep doing it consistently and getting better."

Anderson and junior Karrington Gordon who are both returners for the Chippewas, led the team's success in rebounds.

Anderson totaled 10 rebounds, five offensive and five defensive. Gordon followed with eight rebounds, three offensive and five defensive.

Creating the opportunity to earn points off its rebounds will continue to be a strong suit for CMU as the season goes on.

Scoring off the rebounds

While the team dominated in rebounds, they lacked in the ability to shoot, especially from the three point line. 

On the team's 24 offensive rebounds, they were only able to come up with 22 second chance points.

During the game, CMU had a total of four successful shots at the three-point line each coming from four different players. The Chippewas had a total of 16 shots at the three-point line but was unable to finish over half.

"Our team did a good job bouncing back in the second half and following through," Haynie said. 

The three-point line for the Chippewas seemed to be the team's number one struggle throughout the game. If CMU can shut-out other team's chances for open three's and become more accurate at the line, this could potentially become a strong aspect of this team.

Dominating in the paint 

While the CMU offense had some struggles, one of the areas where they shined was its inside game. 

The Chippewas had 40 points come from the paint while holding the Panthers to 16.

“We have definitely a strong inside presence,” Haynie said. “... We tell them they're probably going to get double teamed, so they need to be patient in the post and look for kickouts.” 

One of the reasons for the success is because of captains, graduate student Nadége Jean and senior Rochelle Norris, who are both returning for their second year with CMU. 

In the win, Jean produced eight points along with five rebounds. Norris secured 14 points while coming up with six rebounds and three blocks. 

The inside game for the Chippewas was their strongest offensive threat. If they continue the dominant performance as they head into the regular season, the inside game will continue to be its biggest strength. 

Sharing the load

As CMU was able to secure the win, it was obvious that there was not just one player's performance that stood out. Eight out of nine players were able to score and six players were able to score over seven points. 

Sharing the load between the players on the team is what builds this team. The ability for each player to have the opportunity to score will prompt more wins for this Chippewa team.

"Anyone can step up to score," Haynie said. "We'd like to do a better job of staying in the positive in assists to turnover ratio. We missed some shots that could've gotten us assists but just continuing to share the ball consistently."

Ortiz lead in points with 16 total; however, Norris followed with 14, Anderson with 13, and sophomore Madisen Wardell with 12. 

This Chippewa team has managed to find a way to adjust to each other's playing habits in a short amount of time which caused them to walk away with a win. As the season goes on, the team chemistry will be the biggest contributor to consistently winning games.