The Road to Cleveland began in four different arenas on Monday afternoon on the women’s basketball side of the bracket, as the middle four seeds hosted their lower-seed counterparts in campus-site games.
The one upset of the night was an 8-9 matchup in what has been a hotly-contested women’s side in the 2019-2020 season, so it’s safe to say we probably haven’t seen the best that’s to come just yet.
We have a recap of all four of Monday night’s games below:
#7 Eastern Michigan vs. #10 Northern Illinois
EMU looked like they were going to get played right off the court early, trailing 6-0 to start, and by as many as 12 points at one point in the first half.
But the Eagles will be the team packing their bags to Cleveland after a rousing rally to dispatch the Huskies by a final score of 76-69 on Monday night.
Areanna Combs’ double-double performance (23 points, 10 rebounds) over 39 minutes played paced the Eagles in the victory effort, with Courtnie Lewis (21 points, four rebounds) and Corrione Cardwell (15 points, four assists) right behind her.
EMU really lit up the nets in the second half, shooting 53 percent from the floor, including 3-of-5 from three-point range to close the gap on the Huskies. Those were drastically improved numbers over 33 percent and 3-15, respectively, in the first half.
For the Huskies, the inverse was true. Their first half success sizzled quickly, as their 43.75 percent shooting prowess got knocked down to 32.3 percent in the second half (including a paltry 0-8 from three.)
Courtney Woods, in her last game in an NIU uniform, gained 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal in 35 minutes played. Myia Starks (14 points, four rebounds, two assists) and A’Jah Davis (14 points, seven rebounds, one block) also contriuted majorly to the scoreboard.
EMU will now face #2 seed Ball State in Cleveland on Wednesday evening.
#8 Akron vs. #9 Toledo
In a back-and-forth affair between in-state peers, it was the Toledo Rockets who ultimately achieved success on Monday night, with a 63-59 victory on the road over the host Akron Zips.
It was a shaky start for both teams, with points apparently at a premium in the first half. Akron went into the locker room up 22-17, as both teams combined to go 16-56 from the field, including 4-17 from three-point range.
The second half, then, served as a gloves-off gauntlet, as Toledo eclipsed their first half total in the third quarter, while both teams combined for 49 points in the last period to add some intrigue to the proceedings.
Tanaya Beacham’s 15-point, 12-rebound double-double helped the Rockets advance, while Nakiah Black exploded in the second half, scoring 15 of her 17 points after the halftime siren. Italian import Mariella Santucci had 10 point and a game-high eight rebounds as well for Toledo.
For the Zips, Haliegh Reinoehl led in scoring for both teams (21 points), with Shaunay Edmonds (11) and Jordyn Dawson (10 points) behind her in the team scoring column. Reinoehl also led the team in rebounds and notched the Zips’ lone block of the night. Dawson led with two steals.
Toledo, the lone low-seed advancing to the quarterfinals, will face #1 overall seed Central Michigan on Wednesday afternoon.
#6 Buffalo vs. #11 Miami
The only duplicate matchup on both the brackets in this year’s MAC tournament produced two very different results, as the Buffalo women were able to defend home court against Miami on Monday evening.
It wasn’t a particularly close affair, as the Bulls raced out to a 32-14 lead at the end of the first quarter on the strength of a 63.6 percent shooting percentage, and led 56-27 at the halftime break in what was ultimately an 87-76 victory.
The Bulls never trailed in the game thanks in part to Dyaisha Fair’s 28 points in 32 minutes (a game-high), and three other Bulls getting into the double-digits in points, including Theresa Onwuka (18 points, eight rebounds, six assists), Hanna Hall (13 points, three rebounds, five assists) and Adebola Adeyeye (10 points, six rebounds.)
Miami did show signs of life coming out of the halftime break, draining 58 percent of their shots in the third quarter (to coincide with Buffalo’s 21 percent) to get within 15, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The RedHawks were led by Lauren Dickerson’s 22 points on the day, with Savannan Kluesner (21 points, 11 rebounds, two steals) and Peyton Scott (15 points, six rebounds, four steals) the only players to hit the double-digit scoring threshold.
Buffalo will get set to play #3 Kent State in Cleveland for the MAC tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday afternoon.
#5 Western Michigan vs. #12 Bowling Green
WMU was in control throughout in their matchup with Bowling Green, taking away the 84-67 victory on Monday evening in convincing fashion.
WMU had all five starters hit double-digits in point totals, with three of those starters also grabbing double-doubles, including Jordan Walker (21 points, 10 rebounds), Leighah-Amori Wool (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Breanna Mobley (10 points, 13 rebounds.) Chelayne Bailey (17 points, three rebounds, six assists) and Kamrin Reed (12 points, two rebounds, two assists) were also major contributors in what was a balanced effort.
Bowling Green put up their best efforts, with three players (including one bench player) hitting double-digit scoring marks, including Angela Perry (team-high 16 points), Elissa Brett (14 points, 13 rebounds, three assists) and Olivia Trice (10 points, three rebounds.)
WMU will face off against #4 Ohio on Wednesday afternoon in Cleveland for the MAC quarterfinals.