The Eagles Women’s basketball team (15-15) will face Oklahoma City (27-1), the number one team in the nation according to National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national rankings, at 2:15 on Thursday in Bill George Arena.
Oklahoma City is the number one seed in the Sooner Athletic Conference and is riding a 13-game winning streak into the tournament.
John Brown dropped both of their games to the Stars earlier this season, one a close 64-61 game on January 7 and the other a 56-41 home contest on February 18.
In particular, the Eagles will have to contend with newly-minted conference player of the year Dietra Caldwell.
The 5’8” guard led the Stars with 12.8 points per game and a conference-high 2.84-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
On the other hand, the Stars will try to contain JBU center senior Chelsea Garrison to neutralize the Golden Eagles’ inside scoring. Garrison led JBU with nine points in the teams’ last meeting.
The key to beating the best team in the country will be the Eagles’ offensive productivity.
In their first game against Oklahoma City, the Eagles had a field goal percentage of 42 percent and only lost by three points.
However, in their second game the Eagles shot only 33 percent and lost by 15.
JBU’s offense has struggled with inconsistency this season, though they seemed to gain momentum as the regular season came to a close.
Leading this offense is sophomore guard Sierra Shipley who is averaging 11 points per game followed by redshirt sophomore guard Jessica Berlin with 11 as well.
Both of their highest scoring games this season are much higher, Shipley scoring 23 points in one game and 28 points by Berlin.
Besides offense play, the home court could give the Eagles an advantage over the Stars as the Bill George Arena hosts its first ever tournament.
“I think it is obviously good to play on your own court,” said head coach Jeff Soderquist.
While home court may be an advantage, there are possible distractions that a road game would not have, according to Soderquist.
But despite any possible drawbacks to playing at home, “The Positives certainly outweigh the negatives,” said Soderquist.
With four of the top 25 teams in the NAIA descending on Siloam Springs, some of this year’s best small-college ball will be likely be played this weekend.
“I’ve been in the league along time. This is going to be some great basketball,” said Soderquist, “If you’re a basketball fan I don’t think you can get any better than this tournament.”