Defense key in game vs. RedHawks

Ball State challenges MAC East Leader Miami (Ohio).

One year ago, Miami University's women's basketball team humbled Ball State in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, upsetting the No. 1 seeded Cardinals behind a 42-point effort from Miami's Kim Lancaster. According to senior Shala Crook, the Cardinals are looking to redeem themselves. But more than that, Crook said the team is looking for revenge.

"You definitely want to come in with the attitude that we can beat them after last year," Crook said. "For one player to completely take over the game like she did, but you can't key-in on her, because her entire team is stacked."

The Cardinals (14-4 overall, 6-1 MAC) will not have it easy against Miami (11-8, 5-3), as the RedHawks enter the game with the No. 2 offense in the league behind Ball State. Head coach Tracy Roller said Miami is the toughest MAC defensive matchup to date.

"It really makes me nervous," Roller said. "They're a lot like us in terms of having anyone are their team could go off on offense, similar to ours."

The Cardinals enter the game with one of the top offenses in the country, ranking No. 10 in points scored and No. 4 in three-point shots hit per game. Crook said the key for the Cardinals is going to be getting into their transition game and running the fastbreak.

Miami - which is on a three-game losing streak - plays the same type of offense, as they run the fastbreak, but unlike Ball State, the RedHawks look to score in the paint more than shoot the 3-pointer. The RedHawks also bring in the MAC's leading scorer, Heather Cusick, who averages 17.5 points per game. Cusick teamed up with Lancaster and forward Colleen Day inside are going to give the Cardinals problems.

"I don't think we can shut her down," Roller said of guarding Lancaster. "Miami has a seasoned point guard (Cusick), unlike Western (Michigan)who had a freshman. We may not be able to contain Miami like we did Western. It could be a long night."

Senior Amy Fuller and sophomore Jessica Re-iter are going to be the two main defensive threats for the Cardinals, trying to stop the Miami duo.

But trying to stop Cusick is another story. She is among the best all-around players in the league.

"(Cusik) does the little things that just kill you," Roller said. "She pushes the ball up the court, even if you take her out of the game scoring-wise, she hurts you other ways. We don't really have an answer for her right now."

According to Roller, Crook gets the task of shutting down the league's leading scorer. But Crook said she is just going to play her game.

"I'm going to play her like any other player in the MAC," Crook said. "I'm just going to play her to her weakness and play good 'Shala Crook defense.'"

Even though Miami is on its three-game losing streak, history has consistently displayed heated battles between the two schools, and Roller said she is well aware of it.

"There are two ways they can approach the game," Roller said. "They could be hungry after the three losses, or they could be tight and struggle. But either way, I know it is going to be a battle."


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