The North Central College scoreboard operator could develop carpel tunnel syndrome during Saturday’s 5 p.m. game against the visiting Illinois Wesleyan women in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin basketball opener for both teams.
The 11-0 Cardinals, who use a “Grinnell’’ style of play, average 102.8 points per game and win by an average of 22.7. They have tied the NCAA Division III record for consecutive 100-point games at five. They face a Titan team averaging 68.1.
IWU coach Mia Smith rates North Central as better than last year’s 11-14 squad that went 4-10 in the CCIW.
“They’ve got a couple of really good, athletic players on their team,” said Smith, who is especially impressed with 5-foot-10 senior Tess Godhardt and 6-2 sophomore Jamie Cuny.
Godhardt averages 18.2 points and Cuny 9.5 points and 3.9 blocks. Cuny plays the point on the Cardinals’ full-court press. Miranda Grizaffi, a 5-8 sophomore, adds 9.8 points. Of Grizaffi’s 88 shots, 87 have come from 3-point range where she shoots 40.2 percent.
Smith says the worst thing you can do against North Central’s system is play out of control.
“This year we are trying to play with a purpose and our purpose will be to try to draw the trap and then get a layup,” Smith said. “We need to find the girl that’s open by communicating and passing. We need less dribbling and more passing.”
Smith is adamant that her team use bounce passes to beat North Central’s press.
“If we try to throw over the top of it,” she said, “it’s going to slow the pass down and probably get deflected or picked off.”
IWU is coming off a pair of losses in New Jersey to No. 21 Salisbury in overtime and Baruch. Molly McGraw (10.6 ppg) missed those games because of illness, but is expected to come off the bench Saturday.
The Titans will start Gabrielle Holness (13.3), Kasey Reaber (10.5), Rebekah Ehresman (8.6), Shelby Gray (6.8) and Alina Lehocky (5.3). Reaber had 10 rebounds against Salisbury and six assists against Baruch.
“She’s playing much better right now,” Smith said.
Smith believes the preconference schedule has featured “a lot of positives” including the fact IWU has been competitive in every game except the 82-59 loss to No. 5 Washington (Mo.).
“All season we’ve been in every game and had opportunities to win and maybe even should have won,” she said. “So I think we’ve done everything we could possibly do in the preseason to get ready for our conference.
“I’m confident with this team. I like this team. We’ve talked about peaking as a team at the right time, not too early, not too late.”