We’ve see it many times over the last 19 years in Cleveland on both the men’s and women’s side. The number one seed can often struggle a bit playing the noon game start to kick-off the tournament as a heavy favorite. Often, the best you can hope to do is survive and advance.
Central Michigan 67, Eastern Michigan 64
That’s exactly what the #1 seeded Central Michigan Chippewas did on Wednesday afternoon in game one of the Women’s Mid-American Basketball Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Chippewas held off a late and furious rally by the #9 seeded Eagles to win a hard-fought game, 67-64.
The Chippewas had a lead as high as 21 points in the first half, before the Eagles made a game of it. The Eagles went on a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter and got all the way back within one point at 65-64 with just 41 second left. The Eagles Danielle Minott missed a three-point attempt at the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime.
MAC Player-of-the-Year, Tinara Moore led the Chippewas with 17 points, including several big buckets and free throws down the stretch. Cassie Breen and Reyna Frost both added 14 points for Central Michigan.
Minott led the Eagles with a game-high 27 points, but the big story for Eastern Michigan was their pressure defense. They forced the Chippewas into a whopping 23 turnovers in the game. The Chips played all the third without starting point guard Presley Hudson, who was in foul trouble and eventually fouled out of the game late.
The Chippewas improve to 26-4 on the season, while the Eagles end their season at 11-20.
Miami Redhawks 69, Ohio Bobcats 66
Any coach will tell you it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season. But that’s just what the Miami Redhawks did when they knocked off their arch rival the Ohio Bobcats, 69-66 in quarterfinal action in the MAC Women’s Tournament.
The #4 seeded Redhawks had beaten the #5 seed Bobcats twice during the regular season. Ohio opened the game with a 12-2 lead and held a 40-37 halftime lead. But then, the Redhawks took control of a tight contest in the fourth quarter to win this one.
But it wasn’t easy. Ohio’s Katie Barker missed a wide open three with five seconds left that would have given the Bobcats the lead. Miami’s Savannah Kluesner grab the rebound and was fouled. She hit two free throws and Ohio missed a three at the buzzer to end the game.
MAC First-Team honoree Lauren Dickerson led Miami in scoring with 23 points. Kluesner added 18 and 14 rebounds, while Leah Purvis had 13 for Miami. Taylor Agler led the Bobcats with 18 points, and Dominique Doseck added 17.
The Redhawks improve to 21-9 on the season while the Bobcats drops to 16-15.
Buffalo Bulls 72, Kent State Golden Flashes 50
Buffalo beat Kent State twice during the regular season by a combined 68 points. It was more of the same on Wednesday evening in the MAC quarterfinals as the Bulls thumped the Flashes again, this time 72-50.
Buffalo held just a 32-27 lead at the half, but a 24-2 Bulls run in the third quarter broke open a relatively close game. In fact, Kent State went more than seven minutes of the third quarter without scoring a point. And, it didn’t get much better in the fourth for the Flashes.
The Bulls senior guard Stephanie Reid finished with 22 points and 11 assists, while Cierra Dillard added 16 points and nine rebounds. Stephanie McKenna and Jordan Korinek each had 16 points for Kent State.
The Buffalo defense came up big in this game they forced the Flashes into 26 turnovers for the game and converted those into 41 points. Buffalo led by as many as 26 points early in the fourth quarter and were able to get some important rest for their starters. If a team makes it to the championship game on Saturday they will be playing three games in four days, so fresh legs is a concern.
With the victory, the Bulls improve to 26-4 on season and keep their hopes for an “at-large” bid to the NCAA if they fail to win the MAC Championship. The Golden Flashes end their season at 13-19.
Western Michigan Broncos 65, Ball State Cardinals 54
Two weeks ago, the Ball State Cardinals beat the Western Michigan Broncos by 27 points in a regular season game. But as they say, it’s a different season once we turn the calendars to March.
The #6 Broncos returned the favor and handed the #3 seeded Cardinals a potentially even costlier defeat, 65-54 in MAC Women’s quarterfinal action on Wednesday night. The Cardinals now stand at 24-6 on the season and the loss certainly won’t look good on their resume as the NCAA Women’s Selection Committee makes their “at-large” decisions on Sunday and Monday.
The Broncos came out on fire and took control of this game early in the first half. They hit 8 of their first 12 three-point attempts while building a 37-18 lead at half time. The start of the second half wasn’t any better for the Cardinals, as the Broncos built the lead to as high as 26 points in the third quarter.
The Cardinals did eventually make a run in the fourth quarter and cut the lead back to eight points at 57-49 with 3:47 left to play in the game. But it was too little too late as the Broncos held on down the stretch for the win.
The Broncos got balanced scoring with Najee Smith with 14, Breanna Mobley with 13, Deja Wimby with 12, and Marley Hill added 10. Carmen Grande led the Cardinals in scoring with 16, but Second Team All-MAC selection, Moriah Monaco was held to just six points. Monaco was just 2-13 from the field, including 1-9 from three-point.
The Broncos move to 18-14 on the season and advance to the MAC semifinals on Friday afternoon.
MAC Women’s Semifinals
Friday, March 9
#1 Central Michigan Chippewas vs #4 Miami Redhawks (12 p.m.)
#2 Buffalo Bulls vs #6 Western Michigan Broncos (2:30 p.m.)