There has been some talk about this being the year the Mid-American Conference gets two teams into the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. So far, #1 Central Michigan and #2 Buffalo are doing their part at the 2018 MAC Women’s Basketball Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Both teams are now at 27 wins on the season and will face off tomorrow at 11 a.m. in the finals. The winner will take the conference’s automatic bid and the loser will play the waiting game on the selection committee announcements on Monday night.
Central Michigan 61, Miami 58
The old saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” The ladies from the #1 seeded Central Michigan Chippewas sure hope that is true, as for the second time in the last 48 hours they have survived and advanced. But, really that’s what March is all about in college basketball.
On Wednesday in the tournament opener, The Chippewas outlasted a gallant Eastern Michigan team, 67-64 to advance to the semifinals. On Friday morning/afternoon, they came from behind and then held off the #4 Miami Redhawks to claim a 61-58 win and advance to Saturday’s finals.
Needing a three pointer to tie with 9.5 seconds left in the game, Miami somehow got off three (yes, three) 3-point attempts but missed all of them, allowing the Chippewas to escape once again.
Consecutive baskets by Miami’s Lauren Dickerson had given the Redhawks a 58-55 lead with 2:38 to play. But, that would be the last points Miami would score in the game ass they missed their final seven shots from the field.
Baskets by Central Michigan’s Tinara Moore and Reyna Frost gave the Chippewas a 59-58 lead, and then two big free throws from Cassie Breen gave them the final three-point cushion, 61-58.
Frost led the Chippewas in both scoring and rebounding with 18 and 12 respectively. She was backed by teammates Micaela Kelly with 16 and Hudson with 10. Dickerson led the Redhawks with 21 points and four assists.
Central Michigan improved to 27-4 on the season, while the Redhawks ended the year at 21-10. The Redhawks will wait and see if they get an invite to the WNIT on Monday.
Buffalo Bulls 85, Western Michigan Broncos 53
With 10 juniors and seniors on the roster, the Buffalo Bulls looked the part of an experienced and confident team on Friday afternoon in the semifinals against the Western Michigan Broncos. They easily dispatched the Broncos, 85-53 and set-up a power showdown in the finals on Saturday against the #1 Central Michigan Chippewas.
The semifinal against the Broncos was a close contest in the first half. The Bulls held a 32-24 lead at the intermission mostly based on a 14-0 run to end the first quarter.
The second half was all Bulls, as they came out and outscored the Broncos 27-12 in the third quarter to basically put the game away. Buffalo was able to pull some of their starters early in the fourth quarter. Any rest could be important as they play in the finals in less than 20 hours from the end of this game.
Cierra Dillard led the Bulls with 17 points and six assists. Stephanie Reid added 12 points and Autumn Jones had 10 for Buffalo. Breanna Mobley had a game-high 21 points for the Broncos, while teammate Najee Smith added 11.
The Bulls shot a blistering 44% from the field for the game and were a perfect 11 of 11 from the free throw line. The Bulls pressure defense forced the Broncos into 23 turnovers in the game, and the Bulls turned those miscues into 26 points.
The Bulls improve to 27-4 on the season, while the Broncos finish the year 18-15.
MAC Women’s Tournament Championship Game
Who: #1 Central Michigan (27-4) vs #2 Buffalo Bulls (27-4)
Where: Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio
When: Saturday, March 10 at 11 a.m.
TV/streaming: CBS Sports Network (check your local cable or satellite provider for listing)