Lindsay Gerber, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. -- With the pressure of being picked to win the Mid-American Conference championship on its shoulders, you could call the Central Michigan women's basketball team's season-opener anything but easy.
In fact, Team 50 will begin by hosting Big Ten opponent Purdue on Friday (7:30 p.m.) at McGuirk Arena. The Chippewas fell to the Boilmakers, 62-51, last season at Purdue's Mackey Arena.
"Let's remember, it's the first night," said Sue Guevara, who is in her 11th year in charge of the Chippewa program. "It's the first leg of the race. Our players are excited to play and I'm sure Purdue is excited. It was a really tough game last year. They have a healthy respect for us, just like we have a very healthy respect for them."
Central Michigan looks to start the season on a strong note, following a season in which it recorded the second-highest win total (23) in program history. But the key to topping a Big Ten team?
"It's going to come down to a matter of rebounding because we were outrebounded badly last year (at Purdue)," Guevara said. "Our guards must rebound the ball for us to win the game.
"Purdue's guards rebound, they're very aggressive. Purdue wins 50-50 balls, but this is our home court. We have to get the 50-50 balls. We have to be aggressive and physical to handle their physicality."
"We have a lot of starters coming back, but we're just ready to go ... we have nothing to lose," Breen said. "We can't think about who's picked to win or who's trying to chase us down. It's all about the next game. It's about Purdue on Friday, we're not looking further."
But Central Michigan's rugged schedule doesn't stop with Purdue.
The Chippewas are slated to entertain SEC member Vanderbilt on Tuesday (7 p.m.). CMU opens its Mid-American Conference season on the road against Ball State on Dec. 30, and then will entertain Ohio on Jan. 3 in their first home MAC game.
As the defending regular-season league champion, the Chippewas -- who are ranked ninth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 Poll, know they are a red-letter date on every MAC team's schedule.
"We know what to do, and now it's just a matter of executing," Guevara said. "We know the target's on our back. We know we have to be on our A game. You have two choices: you either bring it or you don't."