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#5 ONU vs. #15 Trine: Five things to know

ONU center Amy Bullimore (13 ppg) and Trine center Hayley Martin (15 ppg) will go head-to-head tonight. (Northern Review illustration/ Grant Pepper)

In front of a school-record crowd of 846 at King Horn Sports Center on Friday night, the fifth-ranked ONU women’s basketball team (28-0) beat Lakeland (Wis.) 68-36 to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Northern was paced by junior center Amy Bullimore, who tallied 18 points and seven rebounds on the evening, while senior point guard Britt Lauck recorded 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

This weekend marks the first time that Ohio Northern has hosted the national tournament, and the Bears will have another opportunity to play in front of their home crowd in the second round tonight, when they face the 15th-ranked Trine University Thunder (25-2) at 7:30 p.m.

Trine won the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader against Illinois Wesleyan, 63-56. It was their first NCAA Tournament win in program history, and they were led by thunderous performances from their two stars: Brandi Dawson (a 2015 transfer from D-I Wright State), who had 21 points, and Hayley Martin (a 2015 transfer from D-II Nova Southeastern), who had 18.

Illinois Wesleyan’s full-court pressure gave Trine problems for most of the evening, as the Titans forced 21 Trine turnovers in the game. The Thunder trailed by two going into halftime, but would eventually pull away in the second half behind a strong performance from Dawson.

Tonight, the undefeated Polar Bears will meet Trine in the second round of the tournament, with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 next weekend. Before you come to King Horn tonight, we want you prepared; here are five things to know about Northern’s second-round matchup.

 

1. Dawson and Martin are the real deal -- As previously mentioned, Trine’s Dawson and Martin came up big for the Thunder last night, to the tune of 39 combined points. Here’s the thing; that’s not an anomaly. The two combine for an average of 30 points per game, which is nearly half of the team total. They take an average of 24 shots per night (almost exactly 12 a piece), of the team’s 55. Dawson was recently named the MIAA MVP, while Martin was given MIAA Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Northern will have to limit their production tonight, and it will be interesting to see who ONU head coach Michele Durand lines up against Trine’s dynamic duo. Bullimore will likely be matched up with Martin, as both play the center position, which leads to the next topic...

 

2. Battle of the Bigs: Bullimore vs. Martin -- Tonight’s game will feature a frontcourt battle between two of the nation’s premier centers, ONU’s Bullimore and Trine’s Martin. Bullimore, who was recently named First-Team All-OAC for the second year straight, is averaging 13 points and eight rebounds per game this year for Northern. Martin averages 15 points and seven boards per contest for Trine.

Bullimore is a post-oriented center, most effective when she is on the block or in the short corner, where she can square up and attack or make moves with her back to the basket. She likes to use her size to her advantage, often turning back over her right shoulder to convert on Tim Duncan-esque bank-shots over smaller defenders.

Martin, however, works more from the elbow and mid-block areas. She is agile for a center, able to take defenders off the dribble and finish. It seems as though she prefers the midrange jumper, either on pull-ups or spot-ups, over the back-to-the-basket game that Bullimore has mastered. Martin can also stretch the floor and shoot the three if needed.

On defense, both bigs impose their will as shot-blockers, as the 6’1 Bullimore (1.5 blocks per game) and the 6’2 Martin (2.3 blocks per game) both possess good timing and presence.

Bullimore vs. Martin will be a battle between two very different centers, and this matchup will likely determine which team has the edge in tonight’s game.

 

3. Defense, defense, defense… -- Trine enters tonight’s game eighth in the country in scoring defense, giving up just 48 points per game. During Trine’s current 11-game win streak, opposing teams are averaging just 45 points per game. Illinois Wesleyan’s 56 points against Trine last night was the most that the Thunder have allowed since their last loss, on Jan. 18 against Hope.

Meanwhile, Ohio Northern comes into tonight’s game following an impressive defensive performance last night against Lakeland, surrendering just 36 points. Northern allows 57 points per game on average, and in their past five seasons -- of which ONU has made the NCAA Tournament four times -- no team has let up more than 59 points per game.

Points will be at a premium in tonight’s game, to say the least.

 

4. Northern willing to go deep -- While Trine’s offense centers around their two main scorers, Ohio Northern’s is much more balanced. Three different Polar Bears average double figures -- Bullimore, Lauck and starting forward Jenna Dirksen -- and even Lauck, who is considered to be ONU’s best isolation scorer, only shoots an average of 11 shots per game.

Northern also traditionally goes ten-deep every night, as opposed to Trine’s traditional eight-woman rotation. ONU will try to use their scoring parity and depth to wear down Trine tonight.

 

5. Northern fighting history tonight -- Ohio Northern has made the national tournament four times in the past five years, but has not made it out of the first weekend alive since 1988. For Lauck and the team’s seniors, this is their third time competing in the NCAA Tournament, and their last shot at making it to the Sweet 16.

“We’ve kind of reached all the other stepping stones along the way,” Lauck said earlier this week. “And I know that all of us would love to keep going past [the first weekend], and we haven’t gotten to do that yet, so I think it’s in the back of our minds for sure. But I think we all are on the same page about having to play one game at a time, to get through them as they come.”