It's semifinal day at the 2014 Mid-American Conference Women's Basketball Tournament. The top two seeds, Bowling Green and Central Michigan, are finally in action. It appears that we have two great matchups, one of which should be dominated by defense and the other which should be dominated by offense. It ought to be a very entertaining day at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
If you can't make it to the arena, both of today's games will be available on Time Warner Cable Sports Channel, as well as ESPN3/Watch ESPN and the MAC Digital Network.
2014 MAC Women's Basketball Tournament
#1 Bowling Green Falcons vs. #5 Ball State Cardinals (12:00 p.m. EST)
Jan 15th at Ball State -- Falcons d. Cardinals, 72-61
The MAC regular season champion Bowling Green Falcons meet Ball State for just the second time in 2014 during today's semifinals. It is a battle of the 1st- and 3rd-ranked defenses in the MAC, so it should be a tough and low-scoring affair. However, these two are also among the top three in 3-point field goal percentage, so expect a lot of shots from behind the arc.
The previous meeting was back in January during the first two weeks of the season. Bowling Green won the game, which took place in Muncie, Ind., by 13 points, but it was much closer than the final score indicated.
The early portion of the game was intense, and it featured six ties and four lead changes. After 12 minutes, the score was tied at 16. Katie Murphy broke the tie with 7:41 left in the half, and the Cardinals were able to control the remainder of the period. BGSU was able to keep their deficit within two possessions but trailed at halftime, 31-28.
Ball State upped their lead to five on a pair of free throws to start the second half, but after that, the Falcons took over. BGSU went on a 30-10 run over an 11 minute span to grab a 15 point lead and full control of the game. Jillian Halfhill led the Falcons during the run with eight points. Ball State stormed back with a 12-1 run of their own to pull within four, and five minutes remained on the clock. However, Bowling Green stole back momentum with five straight points from Jillian Halfhill, and they pulled away in those final five minutes for their 11-point win.
BGSU shot 52 percent in the second half after just 28 percent in the first, and they finished with nine 3-pointers. Ball State shot a respectable 42 percent but made only one of their 14 attempts from beyond the arc. The game was very physical and featured 24 fouls on each side. The teams combined for 58 free throw attempts, 33 of which were by BGSU.
Individually, Nathalie Fontaine and Brittany Carter led the Cardinals with 20 and 15 points respectively. Miriam Justinger led the Falcons with 18 points, and Alexis Rogers added 15. Jill Stein led all players with seven rebounds.
Much of the same should be expected in today's game, and if Ball State can sink some threes, they have a great chance to win.
#2 Central Michigan Chippewas vs. #3 Akron Zips (approx. 2:30 p.m. EST)
Jan. 9th at Akron -- Chippewas d. Zips, 109-83
These two teams combined for 192 points in their first meeting. They are the top two scoring teams in the MAC (by seven points over the third place team) and are two of the three worst defensive teams in the conference. Even without Crystal Bradford, the teams share five of the top 20 individual scorers and 3-point shooters, too.
What does that mean? Today's second semifinal should be a track meet. It should also be very, very fun to watch.
Yes, Crystal Bradford is injured, but there will be no shortage of talent on the floor from either side. Akron features the top two scorers in the league (Rachel Tecca, Hanna Luburgh), but the Chippewas bring the MAC's 6th Player of the Year Taylor Johnson, as well as fantastic 3-point shooters in Kerby Tamm and Niki DiGuilio.
When the Zips and Chips met back in January, neither team scored fewer than 40 in either half. CMU went for 52 and 57, while Akron scored 43 and 40. In the first half, Akron took an early lead and was up 19-13 after six minutes. However, Central Michigan slowly chipped away and eventually took the lead for good on a DiGuilio 3-pointer with 11:36 left in the half. Their advantage slowly increased to as much as 11 just before halftime, and they went to the locker room up 52-43.
Akron stayed shot-for-shot with the Chippewas early in the second half, but CMU finally went on a 14-2 run from 12 to 24 at the midpoint of the half. The Zips wouldn't get any closer than 19 after that, and the Chippewas finished with a 26-point win.
In an astounding display of their depth, seven different players scored in double figures for CMU. Crystal Bradford did have 15 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, but they clearly had plenty of other help. Jas'Mine Bracey led the team with 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Taylor Johnson also had a double-double. Tecca and Luburgh combined for 54 points, and Kacie Cassell gave out 11 assists.
Both of these teams also got to the free throw line plenty, with 56 attempts between them. CMU also out-rebounded Akron 51-31. They did commit more turnovers, but Akron's 12 giveaways led to 24 points for the Chippewas. CMU'a 17 turnovers led to just 11 Zips' points.
Even without Bradford, CMU should be considered the favorite here. It's true that Akron's about as hot as it can get, with 14 wins in their last 15 games, and it's also true that the last week has not been kind to Central Michigan. However, the Chippewas' depth and experience here ought to help them advance to the finals. For Akron to win, Tecca and Luburgh may have to score even more than the 54 they contributed in the first meeting.
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.||5||Ball State 74
|Champ.||1 or 5||BGSU or Ball State
||vs.||2 or 3||CMU or Akron