UCO Locks Down Rivals
Senior guard Melinda Murillo, No. 22, takes the ball during a game on Saturday, Jan. 20 against Northwestern State University. The Bronchos defeated the Riverhawks 81-55. (Gerald Leong/The Vista)
As the No. 19 Bronchos add another win to their record, defeating the Northeastern State RiverHawks 81-55, their defense continues to lead their conference.
Throughout the season, the Bronchos have held their opponents to an average of 56.8 points per game and a shooting percentage of 34 percent. This places them best in field goal percentage defense and third best in scoring defense in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association conference.
On Saturday, the Bronchos held the RiverHawks, who average 66 points a game, to just 55 points and a 32.2 field goal percentage, while not allowing any RiverHawk to score in double-digit figures.
“Generally if we hold someone in the 50’s, we’re going to win, regardless if we shoot it good or not,” said head coach Guy Hardaker. “We’ve won a bunch of games early in the year, not shooting it very well, but defending.”
— UCO Bronchos (@ucoathletics) January 20, 2018
The Bronchos who are 16-2 on the season place 12 out of 14 in their conference in offensive field goal percentage, by shooting 39%. Hardaker said because of their shooting struggles, the Bronchos have relied on their defense to win games.
Coach Hardaker said the defensive game plan against the RiverHawks was to run them off the three point line, specifically their team’s two leading scorers, Cailyn Long and Cenia Hayes. Long is the RiverHawks best 3-point shooter and is second in the conference with 39 made threes, while Hayes has 28 made threes on the season.
“Those were the two that we were really trying to get,” Coach Hardaker said. “If they score a few times on [Jesheon Cooper] in the lane, they can’t score enough to beat us, but they can make enough three’s to beat us.”
The Bronchos held Long and Hayes to a combined 1-9 from behind the 3-point line. Coach Hardaker praised Madison Lee for her defensive performance on the RiverHawks best scorer.
“Madison Lee without a doubt is our best defender and just the heartbeat of this team, in my opinion,” Hardaker said. “[Cailyn Long] made one three and she only attempted two because Madison Lee was guarding her.”
Coach Hardaker said he believes the reason the Bronchos are so good on defense is that this is one of the most athletic teams he has had. With the conference-leading shot blocker, 6-foot-5 Jesheon Cooper, protecting the paint with 50 blocks on the season, the other members on the team can put more of their focus on outside shooters.
The next five opponents the Bronchos face are in the top half of the conference in scoring. Bronchos will play Pittsburg State on Jan. 25 at home.