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#5 ONU vs. #10 Christopher Newport: Five things to know

ONU's Amauria Campbell (left) and CNU's Sam Porter (right) will go head-to-head tonight in the Elite Eight. (Northern Review illustration/ Grant Pepper)

On Friday night, the fifth-ranked Ohio Northern women’s basketball team beat 20th-ranked SUNY Geneseo, 72-55, to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. The Polar Bears were led by junior center Amy Bullimore, who tallied 23 points and 12 rebounds in the program’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 1988. To read more about Northern’s emphatic Sweet 16 win, click here.

ONU is hosting the NCAA Tournament for the second weekend in a row, and King Horn’s attendance record was broken once again last night. While Northern won in the second game of last night’s doubleheader, the first game featured two Top-20 opponents in 10th-ranked Christopher Newport (28-2) and 18th-ranked Hope (24-5).

Hope jumped out to an early lead on Friday evening, leading CNU by as many as 11 points late in the first half. But Christopher Newport clawed back, as the Captains trailed by just six at halftime. Behind an intense defensive effort and a suffocating full-court press, CNU turned the tides in the second half and took a thirteen-point lead late in the third quarter. The Captains would hold on to win, 79-74, and were led in scoring by junior wing Sam Porter (19 points) and in rebounding by junior forward Devon Byrd (13 boards).

Tonight, the undefeated Polar Bears will face off with Christopher Newport (Va.) in the Elite Eight, with the winner earning a trip to Grand Rapids, Mich. for the Final Four next weekend. The game will tip-off at 8 p.m. But before you come to King Horn tonight, we want you prepared; here are five things to know about Northern’s Elite Eight matchup.

 

1. Depth vs. depth -- Both Ohio Northern and Christopher Newport are willing to go deep into their bench, as Northern traditionally plays 10 players, while CNU will play anywhere from 11-13. While Ohio Northern features three players who average double figures in points, Christopher Newport’s top five scorers all average between seven and 13 points per game.

Ohio Northern has seen valuable production from their bench in this year, as all 10 players who touched the court last night scored for ONU. No player on Northern’s roster plays more than 27 minutes per game, on average. Meanwhile, Christopher Newport’s bench averages nearly 40 of the team’s 74 points per game, with no player on CNU’s roster playing more than 26 minutes per game. CNU coach Will Broderick likes to utilize his deep bench while initiating full-court pressure, as he frequently rotates players in and out of the game to keep his team fresh.

 

2. Battle on the block -- Tonight will feature a showdown of physical bigs, as ONU’s Bullimore and senior power forward Amauria Campbell will battle with CNU’s Byrd and Porter in the frontcourt. Bullimore is averaging 20.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in this year’s tournament, and is coming off of a dominant double-double last night against Geneseo. She will likely line up against Newport’s Byrd, a physical post player who tallied 14 points and 13 boards in the Captains’ win last night.

Meanwhile, Campbell, who held Trine’s conference-MVP forward Brandi Dawson to just eight points last Saturday, will likely line up against Newport’s Porter, who contributed 19 points and 11 rebounds for CNU last night. Porter leads the team in scoring (13 points per game) and rebounding (seven boards per game).

While Byrd is more of a bruising big who will look to use her strength to win the positioning game, Porter uses her athleticism and finishing ability to make her mark -- she has taken just seven three-pointers all season.

Northern will try to contain Porter off the bounce and limit her offensive rebounding, as they did against a similar forward in Dawson just one week ago.

 

3. Ohio Northern vs. the free throw line -- Christopher Newport leads the country in free throw attempts -- by a wide margin, at that -- as they shoot just over 25 free throws per game (they make 67 percent of them). To put that in perspective, Ohio Northern shoots just over 16 free throws per game, and the next closest team to Newport nationally in that category is George Fox, who played three less games than CNU and still averages almost one free throw per game less than the Captains.

Long story short, Christopher Newport gets to the free throw line a lot. The good news for ONU? They foul just 16 times per game, which led the OAC this season. Keeping the Captains off of the free throw line will be important for Northern tonight -- not only because CNU averages 16 points per game from the stripe, but also because the Polar Bears’ transition offense will benefit greatly from fewer blown whistles at the other end.

 

4. Taking care of the ball -- While Ohio Northern likes to play fast offensively, Christopher Newport doesn’t mind the transition game either. As opposed to Geneseo last night, who wanted to slow things down, Newport uses a stifling full-court press to get in their opponents’ heads. The Captains force over 26 turnovers per game, which ranks fourth nationally in that category.

“They’re unbelievable,” Northern head coach Michele Durand said of CNU in the postgame press conference after last night’s game. “It’s going to be a long night, [assistant coach Mark Huelsman] and I are going to be up late tonight trying to figure that out. Because they press you, they’re long, they’re athletic, they can score from about every position, so they’re really good.”

Ohio Northern will need to take care of the ball tonight against Newport’s athletic defenders. However, that’s something that Northern has done all season, as they average just 12.6 turnovers per game -- good for sixth in the nation.

 

5. Next stop, Grand Rapids -- The winner of tonight’s game will earn a trip to Grand Rapids, Mich. next weekend for the Final Four. While Christopher Newport made it to the Final Four in 2011, this would be Ohio Northern’s first trip to the national semifinals.

Both teams, however, are relatively new to the Elite Eight. Tonight will be Northern’s first time in the sectional finals, while Newport’s only other Elite Eight appearances came in 2011 and 2013.

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