Chalk continues to reign in Cleveland as Ball State and Toledo dispatched their second round opponents and moved into the third round of the MAC tournament. Neither game was a blowout, but both the Cardinals and Rockets led comfortably throughout the second halves of their games. Now, they'll get the opportunity to knock off Eastern powers Buffalo and Akron.
2014 MAC Women's Basketball Tournament
(click links for boxscores)
#5 Ball State 61, #9 Northern Illinois 47
The Ball State Cardinals (16-15) cruised past the Northern Illinois Huskies (11-19) with a 61-47 victory in the second round of the 2014 MAC Women's Basketball Tournament. The game was the first of a Wednesday afternoon doubleheader at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Ball State seized control of the game by scoring the first 11 points. Shelbie Justice drilled a 3-pointer to open the scoring on the first possession, and the Cardinals sank four free throws in the first two minutes. They would ultimately score 10 times from the free throw line in the first half, while NIU did not get a single attempt.
The Huskies finally got onto the scoreboard after 4:17 had elapsed, and they proceeded to go on a 12-3 run during the following six minutes. BSU went four minutes without a field goal, as their lead dwindled to 14-12. However, Shelby Merder floated in a three to end the run, and NIU would not get within five points again.
The lead fluctuated between five and 11 points for the remainder of the half, and Ball State ultimately held a 31-23 advantage at the break.
When the second half started, Ally Lehman scored for NIU, but the Cardinals' Brittany Carter answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 9-0 run. That burst gave Ball State their biggest lead of the game, 15 points (40-25), with 16:20 left in the game.
NIU held Ball State to just four points over the next nine minutes and was able to cut the deficit to just five (44-39). Justice answered on the other end for the Cardinals, and she converted a free throw after being fouled on the layup. Jill Morrison stepped back for a three just one minute later, and Ball State's lead ballooned back to 13. After that, BSU sank nine of their 10 free throw attempts, and that killed any hopes the Huskies had for a miracle comeback. The Cardinals ultimately won by 14.
Both teams finished with rather pedestrian shooting averages between 35 and 39 percent, but Ball State primarily won the game at the free throw line. They ultimately finished with a 23-6 edge in made free throws. The Cardinals forced only eight turnovers, but they ended the game with a 39-24 lead in rebounds.
Nathalie Fontaine led all players with 17 points and eight rebounds. She made a big contribution at the charity stripe, where she went 9-of-10. Brandy Woody finished with 12 points, four rebounds and three assists for Ball State. The Huskies were paced by Natecia Augusta, who scored 13 points, but eight of those were among NIU's first 10. Danny Pulliam and Ally Lehman added 10 apiece.
The 5th-seeded Cardinals advance to the third round of the tournament and will face #4 Buffalo at noon EST on Thursday. The Bulls defeated the Cardinals 73-69 in Muncie, Ind. during the regular season.
#6 Toledo 72, #7 Western Michigan 61
The Toledo Rockets (16-15) continued a successful post-season run by ousting the Western Michigan Broncos (13-18) from the 2014 MAC Women's Basketball Tournament. The Rockets posted a 72-61 victory over the Broncos on Wednesday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
WMU opened the game with four straight points, and Toledo followed with nine straight. Ultimately, the Rockets built an eight-point lead (17-9) just prior to the mid-point of the half. During the final 10 minutes of the period, the Broncos would come back to force two ties and six lead changes in a half that became very competitive once both teams settled in.
Once up by eight, Toledo's offense went cold. They were 1-of-11 from the floor with two turnovers during an eight minute span, and they allowed the Broncos to go on a 12-2 run that gave WMU a 21-19 lead with 3:39 left in the half. The lead flipped an additional five times in the final three minutes of the period, and Toledo finished up 30-28 at the buzzer.
The Broncos continued to be pesky during the early minutes of the second half, and they trailed just 39-37 after 5:14. At that point, Toledo's Ana Capotosto took over. She sank a pair of 3-pointers, as well as a jumper inside the arc, in a personal 8-0 run that gave Toledo a 47-37 edge. That was the death knell for Western Michigan's hopes Jazmine Windham tried to change momentum with a basket, but Janelle Reed-Lewis scored six more for the Rockets.
Toledo led by 14 just past the 10-minute mark of the period, and they later pushed the lead up to a game-high 18 points. They cruised from there to an 11-point victory.
Capotosto was the star of the afternoon. She sank her first seven shots, made five of six 3-pointers, and tied a career-high with 21 points. She also contributed seven rebounds. Four others scored in double figures for the Rockets. Andola Dortch and Inma Zanoguera scored 12 and 11 respectively, and Reed-Lewis and Janice Monakana poured in 10 each.
Western Michigan was led by Miracle Woods, who scored 23 points. Julia Henson made a trio of 3-pointers off the bench, but she needed 11 attempts. Marquisha Harris (10 points, 13 rebounds) had the game's only double-double.
The #6 seed Rockets will face #3 Akron in the third round of the tournament at approximately 2:30 p.m. EST on Thursday afternoon. Toledo lost 82-62 at home against the Zips in their only meeting thus far in 2014.
And, 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
|2nd||5||Ball State 61
||vs.||9||Northern Illinois 47
||vs.||7||Western Michigan 61
||vs.||4 or 5||Buffalo or Ball State
||vs.||3 or 6||Akron or Toledo
|Champ.||1, 4, or 5
||vs.||2, 3, or 6