It was an afternoon full of conference hoops at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio, as the Mid-American Conference hosted the first day of games in its new eight-team format.
Under the new format, all eight teams play on the first day, as opposed to the top four seeds gaining BYEs into the next round. In previous seasons, all 12 teams made the tournament and played in a “campus round” prior to going to Cleveland.
The action started at 11 a.m. on Friday morning, and went all the way to X;XX p.m. the same evening.
Here are the results from today’s quarterfinal action:
#1 Bowling Green Falcons 63, #8 Eastern Michigan Eagles 47
It was a tale of two halves in this Battle of the Birds, as EMU initially ran away with control of the game, holding BGSU to a paltry 24 percent from the floor in the first half (including just 18 percent from three-point range,) before the Falcons buckled down on defense and found their shooting stride to leave the Eagles stunned in a 63-47 victory.
The Eagles jumped out to a 31-21 lead at halftime as a result of their ability to keep down the BGSU offense. In the first half, the Eagles took advantage of those early shooting woes, posting a 50 percent field goal percentage, including 50 percent from three-point range.
After that, the Eagles wouldn’t touch the 40-point mark until deep into the fourth quarter, as the Falcons went on a blistering run of 20-6 in the third quarter, and followed that up with a 22-10 effort in the fourth quarter. BGSU’s quest for victory was aided in part by 23 forced turnovers (to just eight conceded) and 13 steals, resulting in 20 points off turnovers and 10 off second-chances.
BGSU’s leading scorer on the day was Kadie Hempfling (15 points, three steals), with teammates Kenzie Lewis (14 points, 11 rebounds, four steals) and Elissa Brent (13 points, 10 rebounds) securing double-doubles in the winning effort.
For EMU, Ce’nara Skanes’ 13 points and nine rebounds paced the Eagles, while Areanna Combs picked up a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Corrione Caldwell contributed with eight points, two steals and three assists.
#4 Buffalo Bulls 73, #5 Kent State Golden Flashes 66
Kent State drew first blood, but it was Buffalo who would go essentially wire-to-wire, forcing six turnovers in the first quarter (and nine overall) and scoring 24 points off said turnovers to build up what ultimately proved to be an unassailable lead for the Bulls.
The Golden Flashes kept decent pace, outscoring the Bulls in the remaining three quarters, and even closing the gap to as small as five points late in the game. When all was said and done, however, even the best efforts of Mariah Modkins (12 points, three assists, four rebounds) and Buffalo’s questionable shooting down the stretch couldn’t overcome Kent State’s first quarter nerves.
Dyaisha Fair was the heart of the Buffalo effort, with 30 points, six steals, four assists and three rebounds on the day. She was virtually unstoppable, going 5-of-7 from three-point range and going 11-of-14 from the charity stripe to pace all scorers. Joining her atop the Buffalo leaderboards was Cheyenne McEvans, who finished with 14 points and four rebounds, as well as Adebola Adeyeye and her 11 point, eight rebound effort.
Kent State featured five players (including four starters) hitting double-figures, highlighted by Nila Blackford’s double-double (12 points, 18 rebounds, two assists.) Other contributors included points leader Hannah Young (15 points), Modkins, Lindsey Thall (13 points) and Katie Schumate (12 points.)
#2 Central Michigan Chippewas 83, #7 Northern Illinois Huskies 69
It was initially a tense, uncertain battle between the Chippewas and Huskies, but ultimately, a timely 13-2 run before the end of the first half would decide the flow of the battle, as CMU eventually advanced to the semifinal round after a brief scare.
CMU got off to a fast start offensively in the first quarter, with four different Chippewas scoring at least one three-pointer on 10 total attempts, but couldn’t replicate that success on two-point shots, going 1-of-9 on two-point tries, resulting in a 26.4 field goal percentage.
This allowed NIU the opening they needed, keeping pace with CMU all the way up to the point where they picked up a 23-21 lead at the 6:06 mark in the second quarter, holding onto it until the 3:34 mark, when Central would go on their long run to put the gap to 37-28 at the half.
That gap was maintained throughout the third quarter, before NIU made another run in the fourth, getting as close as six points with just over a minute left and in the bonus. Both teams put on a show in the second half, with NIU sinking 41.7 percent and 50 percent and CMU shooting 50 percent and 70 percent in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
Molly Davis (24 points, four assists, four rebounds, three steals) and Micaela Kelly (23 points, four rebounds, five assists) led the way for the Chippewas, and got key contributions from Maddy Watters (12 points, four assists), Kalle Martinez (nine points on 3-of-4 shooting) and Anika Weekes (eight points, eight rebounds.)
Chelby Koker (22 points, three rebounds, assists and steals) and A’jah Davis (21 points, 11 rebounds) did the heavy lifting for the Huskies, with Janae Poisson (14 points, three rebounds) rounding out the double-digit scorers.
#3 Ohio Bobcats 61, #6 Ball State Cardinals 59
The closest game of the night also happened to be the closing game of the quarterfinal round, and in fitting fashion for a finale, the ending wasn’t decided until the last possible moment, as it was the Bobcats who would have to rely on a great defensive effort and late-clock management to escape with a one-possession victory against the Cardinals on Wednesday evening.
It was a game of start-and-stop runs, as both teams felt each other out throughout most of the proceedings, with neither one getting more than an eight-point lead at any given point. Ohio’s longest lead of the night turned out to be 40 seconds, compared to Ball State’s longer spurts of 9:08 and 5:34 (both in the third quarter.) It was also defined by several long scoring droughts, including one lasting an incredible 5:52 in the middle of the second quarter, and 14 combined points over the last 6:46 of the fourth quarter.
Thelma Dis Agustsdottir brought the Cardinals within two points at the :53 mark of the fourth quarter, but neither team was able to score after the fact, an emblematic ending to the action the rest of the game had offered.
Dis Agustdottir (21 points, three rebounds) led the Cardinal effort, with Oshlynn Brown (12 points, 22 rebounds) keeping the game close for ball State with her rebounding ability, picking up almost half of her team’s 45 rebounds. Essence Booker, who led the team with nine first-half points, finished with 11 off the bench.
For the Bobcats, CeCe Hooks (21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block) once again showed her first-team MAC prowess in leading Ohio to victory. Erica Johnson (19 points, three rebounds, three steals. one assist) and Gabby Burris (15 points, three rebounds, two assists) round out the double-digit contributors.
The semifinals will continue on Friday, March 12, with Bowling Green vs. Buffalo at 10 a.m. Eastern and CMU vs. Ohio 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. Both games will air on ESPN+.