The 2014 version of #MACMadness continues on Wednesday afternoon when the MAC Women's Basketball Tournament invades Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Two second round games are on tap, and the four participating teams are all from the Western Division.
First on the docket is the Ball State Cardinals against the Northern Illinois Huskies at noon EST. The winner of that game will advance to face the 4th-seeded Buffalo Bulls on Thursday in the third round. Thirty minutes after the conclusion of the first game, approximately 2:30 p.m. EST the Toledo Rockets will square off with the Western Michigan Broncos. The victor advances to the third round to face the Akron Zips, who are seeded 3rd, on Thursday afternoon.
2014 MAC Women's Basketball Tournament
#5 Ball State Cardinals vs. #9 Northern Illinois Huskies
The Cardinals (15-15, 9--9 MAC) will attempt to complete a three-game series sweep of the Huskies (11-18, 6-12 MAC) in the first game of the day. Ball State won both regular season meetings rather handily, the second of which occurred just one week ago. NIU did not hold a lead bigger than four points in either game, and their biggest leads in both came in the first few minutes of each. The Cardinals held second half leads of 18 in the first meeting and 15 in the second.
The Huskies won the rebounding battle both times, 28-26 and 34-25, but they committed more turnovers and allowed Ball State better shooting percentages. In the DeKalb meeting, BSU shot 50 percent and made 24 free throws. Last Wednesday in Muncie, they shot 45 percent and drilled 11 3-pointers.
Ball State's primary weapon in their most recent win over the Huskies was Brittany Carter. Carter scored 23 points and added five points and six rebounds. She also made six 3-pointers. Nathalie Fontaine and Shelbie Justice both averaged more than 10 points in the two meetings.
Northern Illinois' Alexis Lindstrom scored sank a tournament-record nine 3-pointers on Monday but scored just nine total points in 40 minutes against the Cardinals this year. She was held scoreless in the game last Wednesday. Natecia Augusta and Amanda Corral combined for only 30 points and 21 rebounds in total against the Cardinals this season, and NIU will need bigger contributions from both in order to win.
On Monday, the Cardinals routed #12 seed Kent State by 35 points, 73-38. They shot 51 percent during the game and made 12 3-pointers. Nathalie Fontaine poured in 21 points, while both Jill Morrison and Shelbie Justice both also scored in double figures. Their defense held Kent State to just 29 percent from the floor and forced 18 turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Huskies captured an 81-76 overtime victory over #8 Eastern Michigan on Monday. The Huskies were the only road team (on either side of the tournament) to win a road game in the opening round. As noted above, Lindstrom sank nine 3-pointers and scored a game-high 31 points. Natecia Augusta made 10 shots and scored 24 points, and Amanda Corral added 15.
#6 Toledo Rockets vs. #7 Western Michigan Broncos
As in the first game, the latter half of the doubleheader features one team going for a season sweep of a division rival. This time, the Broncos (13-17, 8-10 MAC) will try to turn the trick against the Rockets (15-15, 9-9 MAC). The two games were decided by a total of seven points, and the January game in Kalamazoo featured 11 lead changes. Toledo outrebounded the Broncos in the two games, but WMU overcame that by out-shooting the Rockets.
Individually, Toledo will need to do a better job against Marquisha Harris, who has gone for 16 points and nine rebounds followed by 20 points and seven rebounds against the Rockets this year. Miracle Woods also had two very good games against UT. In the first, she posted 16 points and seven rebounds, then went for 10 and six in the second meeting.
The Broncos will undoubtedly be focused on containing Toledo's starters. In two games, the Rockets scored a grand total of six bench points (no individual more than two) against WMU. However, the starters were very, very good. Four of the five averaged at least 12 points against the Broncos this season, and Brianna Jones averaged a double-double. Andola Dortch combined to score 37, pull down eight rebounds, and dish out 11 assists in the two games.
Toledo routed the Ohio Bobcats, 61-44, in the opening round of the tournament. They held Ohio to 19 percent shooting in the first half and allowed the Bobcats to make only seven of their 39 attempts from beyond the arc. Nine different players scored for the Rockets, and Andola Dortch led the team with 13 points. Janelle Reed-Lewis added 10 more.
Also in the first round, Western Michigan cruised past Miami 82-72. The Broncos had balanced scoring with four players in double figures, including Marquisha Harris and A.J. Johnson with 23 and 16 respectively. WMU earned their way to the free throw line for 33 shots, and they helped hold off a late Miami rally by making shots from the line. Ultimately, they converted 27 of those 33 attempts.
Here's the official 2014 MAC Women's Basketball Tournament bracket:
|1st||5||Ball State 73
||vs.||12||Kent State 38
|1st||8||Eastern Michigan 76
||vs.||9||Northern Illinois 81
|1st||7||Western Michigan 82
||vs.||5 or 9||BSU or NIU
|3rd||3||Akron||vs.||6 or 7||Toledo or WMU
||vs.||4, 5 or 9|
||vs.||3, 6 or 7|
|Champ.||SF #1 winner||vs.||SF #2 winner|