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#5 ONU vs. #20 SUNY Geneseo: Five things to know

ONU's Jenna Dirksen (left) and SUNY Geneseo's Kara Houppert (right) will go head-to-head at the wing position tonight. (Northern Review illustration/ Grant Pepper)

Last weekend, the fifth-ranked Ohio Northern women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1988, defeating Lakeland (Wis.) in round one by 32 points, and 15th-ranked Trine in round two by seven.

In ONU’s first time hosting the women’s NCAA tournament, King Horn set attendance records on both nights; 846 spectators came on Friday, and 907 attended Northern’s second round game on Saturday. The Polar Bears remained undefeated at 29-0, and were led on Saturday night by junior center Amy Bullimore, who scored nine of her 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Northern went into halftime leading Trine by two points, 20-18, after shooting just six percent in the first quarter. But things opened up in the second half, as late contributions from sophomore forward Jenna Dirksen and clutch post play from Bullimore pushed ONU past Trine down the stretch.

The Polar Bears also managed to hold Trine’s two leading scorers -- forward Brandi Dawson and center Hayley Martin -- to just 15 combined points on the night, when they averaged 31 together coming into Saturday’s game. To read more about how Northern stopped Trine’s dynamic duo, click here.

This weekend, Ohio Northern will host the NCAA Tournament once more, as the Polar Bears are the highest remaining seed in their quadrant. The first matchup on Friday night’s Sweet 16 slate will be 10th-ranked Christopher Newport (27-2) vs. 18th-ranked Hope (24-4), which will start at 5:30 p.m., and the nightcap will be fifth-ranked Ohio Northern (29-0) vs. 20th-ranked SUNY Geneseo (28-1).

Before you come to King Horn tonight, we want you prepared; here are five things to know about Northern’s Sweet 16 matchup.


1. We’ve all been here before -- Both teams will come into tonight’s game with a remarkable amount of tournament experience. Ohio Northern plays three seniors who are competing in their third NCAA Tournament, and their entire starting five played during last year’s national tournament run. This season mark’s ONU’s fourth tournament appearance in five years. Meanwhile, Geneseo’s starting five -- made up entirely of seniors -- is also making their third run in the national tournament. The Knights are making their third consecutive tournament appearance.

Geneseo’s seniors have gone 5-2 all-time in the national tournament, while ONU’s seniors have a record of 4-3. The Knights are back in the Sweet 16 after getting there two years ago, while this is Northern’s first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1988.


2. Two trademark defenses -- Geneseo comes into tonight’s contest allowing just 47.6 points per game, which is good for sixth in the nation in that category. Meanwhile, Ohio Northern gives up just 55 points per game, which ranks 50th nationally.

ONU is coming off of an opening weekend where they allowed just 84 total points, which is the lowest of any Sweet 16 team. Head coach Michele Durand praised her team this week for their defensive focus in Saturday’s win over Trine, where they held the Thunder to 38 percent shooting from the field.

“Our defensive gameplan -- I thought our girls executed it to a T, perfectly,” Durand said. “I told them at halftime that if we can shoot 15 percent and still be up by two that it was going to go better in the second half, and to stay patient.”

At the same time, Geneseo is coming off of a season in which they held opponents to 40 points or lower nine times.

“I think, as a whole, our commitment is to defense and rebounding,” Geneseo head coach Scott Hemer said yesterday. “I’ve been at this long enough to understand that [players] won’t remember to do everything you ask them, but they’ll remember what you emphasize, and for us, we emphasize defense and rebounding.”


3. Two balanced offenses -- While Ohio Northern’s leading scorer is senior point guard Britt Lauck, who averages just under 15 points per game, Northern’s lineup features two other starters -- Bullimore and Dirksen -- who average double figures. Four rotation players for ONU also average between four and seven points per game, as Northern’s offense is balanced within Durand’s traditional 10-player rotation.

Meanwhile, Geneseo exhibits a similar scoring construct. Aside from their leading scorer, senior guard Katie Durand (not related to Michele), who averages just over 11 points per contest, the Knights feature seven players in their usual nine-player rotation who average between four and nine points per game.

Tonight’s matchup features two offenses which have multiple scoring outlets, which begs the question: Who will step up tonight?


4. Bullimore loves the big stage -- On Saturday, two elite centers squared off as Bullimore went head-to-head with Trine’s Martin. Bullimore got the better of Martin, as she held Martin to just seven points on 3-11 shooting. Meanwhile, Bullimore poured in 20 points, snagged seven rebounds and dominated the fourth quarter, which played a major role in Northern’s victory.

Saturday’s performance capped off an impressive weekend for Bullimore, who scored 18 points in Friday night’s win as well. In her four career tournament games, Bullimore is averaging 17.5 points per contest.

Geneseo will have to find an answer on the block for the 6’1 Bullimore, as the Knights do not have a starter over the six-foot mark. They do have two backup posts who are of similar height to Bullimore, but Geneseo will need to win the positioning game this evening to hang with Northern’s All-Region center.


5. A chance at history -- With a win tonight, Ohio Northern would advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Meanwhile, a win for Geneseo would propel the Knights to their third Elite Eight in school history, and their first since 1995.

While both teams have had notable success over the past five years -- Northern has gone 122-19 during that span, losing just six home games, while Geneseo has gone 115-28 overall -- each program will look to take the next step tonight by breaking into the round of eight and getting deeper into the tournament.

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