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CENTRAL MICHIGAN 84, Western Michigan 75
The Central Michigan Chippewas handled a spirited effort from the Western Michigan Broncos and moved one step closer to a regular season MAC championship with an 84-75 victory on Wednesday night. The victory in Mount Pleasant, Mich. sealed CMU's first undefeated home season in 30 years and only their second ever. If the Chippewas win at Eastern Michigan on Saturday, they will win at least a share of the MAC's regular season title. It would be their first in 29 years.
CMU got outstanding games from four of their most reliable players. Crystal Bradford posted another double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and she dished out six assists. Jessica Green made nine of her 15 shots and finished the game with 21 points. Both Niki DiGuilio and Taylor Johnson sank four 3-pointers. DiGuilio also went 8-of-8 from the free throw line and led all players with 22 points. Johnson scored 19 points in her 24 minutes off the bench, and she also grabbed eight rebounds.
Western Michigan actually out-shot overall and out-rebounded the Chippewas, but Central Michigan was better where it really counted. First, CMU made half (11-of-22) of their 3-pointers while WMU went just 5-of-18. The Chippewas also earned 12 more free throw attempts and made nine more than the Broncos. Finally, CMU forced 19 turnovers and committed only 10, and they owned a 25-9 edge in points off turnovers.
WMU scored the game's opening points, but a DiGuilio 3-pointer gave CMU a 5-4 lead after 2:14. The Chippewas would not give the lead back, but to Western Michigan's credit, they made CMU sweat for most of the game. Just before the midpoint of the half, the Chippewas had built a 25-14 lead, and it appeared that they would pull away quickly. However, the Broncos climbed back to within three late in the half before heading to the locker room down seven points.
In the second half, the Broncos kept the game close and trailed by just three midway through the period. They survived a 7-0 run by the Chippewas and got their deficit back down to three with just 3:06 left. However, CMU did as they very often do -- dominate the final minutes. The Chippewas went on an 11-2 run by going 7-of-8 from the free throw line and getting two Bradford layups. WMU missed five of six shots during this run, and they trailed 84-72 in the final seconds before a trey by A.J. Johnson provided the final nine-point margin.
Marquisha Harris led the Broncos with 20 points, and she added six rebounds. Miracle Woods posted a double-double with 15 points and a team-best 11 rebounds. Johnson finished with 12 points.
Central Michigan (20-9, 16-1 MAC) finishes the regular season on Saturday afternoon at Eastern Michigan. Western Michigan (12-16, 8-9 MAC) has lost their chance to earn a bye in the MAC tournament and will host a first-round game on Monday. Their regular-season finale is Saturday at Northern Illinois.
Bowling Green 73, MIAMI 56
The Bowling Green Falcons are MAC Eastern Division champions for the ninth time in 10 years, and on Sunday, they clinched the title outright with a 73-56 win over the Miami RedHawks in Oxford, Ohio. The victory also keeps Bowling Green in lockstep with Central Michigan for the overall regular season MAC title.
The Falcons struggled mightily with their shot early in the game, and fans must have wondered if an upset was brewing. Bowling Green made only one of their first 15 attempts and had four turnovers during the opening 9:30 of the first half. Fortunately for the Falcons, Miami wasn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard, either. BGSU trailed 12-3 after a score by Jessica Rupright.
Deborah Hoekstra finally got BGSU's offense going by drilling a 3-pointer with 10:08 left in the half. From that point, Bowling Green made 20 of their 44 shots and outscored Miami 70-44. After Hannah Robertson scored for a 16-8 Miami lead, the Falcons went on an 8-0 run over a three-minute span. Triples from Hoekstra and Jasmine Matthews evened the game at 16.
BGSU could not take the lead, as Miami fought back with four straight points. The RedHawks still led 24-22 with 2:00 left in the half, when Alexis Rogers scored eight straight points to end the half for the Falcons. She got fouled on a layup and made the ensuing free throw to give BGSU their first lead of the day (25-24) then followed that with a 3-pointer and two more free throws. Bowling Green led 30-24 at halftime.
Miami cut the deficit to four early in the second half, but Hoekstra sank another three for a seven-point lead. The RedHawks would not get within two possessions again after that point.
The Falcons shot just 35 percent overall and made only 10 of their 37 3-pointers. However, as noted above, they were much better after the early minutes of the game, and they converted 21 of 24 free throw attempts. Miami was 34.4 percent from the floor and went 5-of-29 from long range. They got only 10 free throw attempts and made seven. Miami outrebounded BGSU by a 47-35 margin, but they also nearly doubled up the Falcons on turnovers (17-9) and were outscored 24-7 in points off those turnovers.
Rogers led all players with 21 points for BGSU. Hoekstra and Jillian Halfhill each scored 15, while Jill Stein led the team with eight rebounds. Hannah Robertson was the only Miami player in double figures, and she scored 19.
BGSU (26-3, 16-1 MAC) closes the regular season on Saturday afternoon at Akron. Miami (7-21, 3-14 MAC) hosts Ohio for the regular-season finale on Saturday. The RedHawks will need to win that game to avoid the #12 seed in the conference tournament.
Akron 79, BUFFALO 71
The Akron Zips received another stellar game from their star duo of Rachel Tecca and Hanna Luburgh, and as a result, they extended their school record winning streak to 13 games with a 79-71 victory over Buffalo. The loss on Wednesday night in Buffalo, N.Y. puts the Bulls in danger of dropping into a first-round MAC tournament game next Monday.
Tecca added another double-double to her resume, as she led all players with both 23 points and 15 rebounds. Luburgh posted 20 points and led the team with three steals. DiAndra Gibson and Kacie Cassell also contributed nicely to the effort; Gibson scored 10 and grabbed six rebounds, while Cassell notched six assists.
Akron was uncharacteristically quiet from beyond the arc and loose with the basketball. They attempted only 12 3-pointers and gave the ball away 19 times. However, their presence on the inside was formidable. The Zips shot just shy of 50 percent inside the arc and enjoyed a 48-31 edge in rebounds. They also got to the free throw line for 22 attempts and made 19 of those.
Despite Akron's success on the inside, the Bulls used a balanced attack to challenge the Zips and stay close throughout. Kristen Sharkey joined Tecca in the double-double game with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Mackenzie Loesing scored 18. Alexus Malone and Margeaux Gupilan both poured in 11.
The first half was close throughout. Buffalo took the early lead and boosted their advantage to six points on several occasions. However, Akron slowly chipped away before taking the lead themselves for the final eight minutes of the period. They went to the break with a six-point lead of their own, 37-31.
A three by Luburgh just over two minutes into the second half gave Akron a 12-point lead (46-34), their biggest of the game. Buffalo worked their way back and eventually tied the game at 56 after free throws from Jenna Rickan with 9:17 left. Three minutes later, Loesing was fouled attempting a 3-pointer and drilled all three free throws. Buffalo finally had the lead back (61-59).
The game was tied at 67 with 2:00 remaining when Luburgh drilled a dagger 3-pointer. The teams traded layups, and Buffalo was still down only 72-69 with 1:00 left. However, they went scoreless on their next two possessions while Akron sank four straight free throws. This gave the Zips control of the game, and three more free throws in the final seconds allowed Akron to leave with an eight-point win.
Akron (20-8, 14-3 MAC) will host Bowling Green on Saturday for their final regular season game. The Zips are locked into the #3 seed in the MAC tournament but can even the score with BGSU and severely impair the Falcons' hopes of earning the #1 seed. Buffalo (16-12, 9-8 MAC) will host Kent State on Saturday to close the regular season. If they win, the Bulls will be the #4 seed in the tournament and will earn a bye to the third round.
TOLEDO 88, Eastern Michigan 52
The Toledo Rockets played their most complete game of the MAC schedule on Wednesday night when they defeated the Eastern Michigan Eagles 88-52 on Senior Night at Savage Arena. The victory moved the Rockets into a tie with Buffalo for fourth place in the overall MAC standings and opened up the possibility that the Rockets could earn a bye directly to Cleveland with a win on Saturday.
The Rockets trailed 11-10 just over seven minutes into the game, but they took control with a 20-2 run over an eight-minute span. During the scoring burst, four different Toledo players drilled a total of five 3-pointers. Andola Dortch made two of those in a flurry of points that buried the Eagles into a 30-13 deficit. EMU went 1-of-17 from the field during the run and missed 13 straight shots at one point.
The Eagles fought back with a run of their own. Cha Sweeney connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to spark an 8-0 surge that cut the Toledo lead to nine with 3:21 left in the half. However, the Rockets steadied themselves and rallied to lead by 12 at halftime.
Toledo ended any remaining drama immediately as the second half began. They scored the first nine points en route to a 19-6 run in the first five minutes, and they led by 25 (58-33). Dortch, Janelle Reed-Lewis and Inma Zanoguera all sank treys to key the run. It was still a 25-point game two minutes later when the Rockets embarked on another extended run. This one went 16-4 in Toledo's favor, as UT lead ballooned to 37 points. It would eventually grow to 39 before Toledo settled for a 36-point romp.
The Rockets out-shot EMU 46 to 27.5 percent, but the difference was even worse in the second half (50 to 22.6). Beyond the arc, Toledo was 12-of-23, while EMU made just five of 26 shots. The difference was just as stark at the free throw line, where Toledo converted 18 of 23 and EMU just nine of 21. UT also held a significant edge (53-40) in rebounds.
Zanoguera led the Rockets with 20 points and all players with 14 rebounds. Brianna Jones added 17, while Reed-Lewis contributed 13. Nine different players scored for Toledo. For EMU, Sweeney scored 23 to lead all players, and Janay Morton posted 15 points. However, Natachia Watkins was held to just four points.
Toledo (14-14, 9-8 MAC) plays at Ball State on Saturday for their final regular season game. To earn a bye to the third round of the MAC tournament, they need a win plus a Buffalo loss to Kent State. EMU (16-12, 6-11 MAC) hosts their regular season finale on Saturday against Central Michigan. If the Eagles win, they'll be guaranteed a first-round home game in the MAC tournament.
BALL STATE 67, Northern Illinois 57
The Ball State Cardinals clinched a home game in the MAC tournament by beating the Northern Illinois Huskies 67-57 in Muncie, Ind. on Wednesday night. The Cardinals will learn their tournament seed and first-round opponent after Saturday's regular-season finale.
The Huskies took an early 4-0 lead and maintained that advantage through the first 10 minutes, but the fun would not last for NIU. Midway through the period, Brittany Carter drained a 3-pointer for Ball State that gave the Cardinals a 12-10 lead, and they would not trail again.
Less than a minute later, Shelbie Justice sank another three for the Cardinals to cap a 10-0 run. The Cardinals held a 17-10 lead, but NIU was able to cut their deficit to just one point on four occasions, the last coming with 1:24 left in the half. However, Ball State dominated the final minute of the half. Brandy Woody scored twice, and Carter connected on another triple. BSU went to the break with their biggest lead of the half, 35-27.
Another Carter three opened the second half, but the 11-point Cardinal lead was quickly whittled to two by the Huskies. NIU stayed close for the next several minutes, and with nine to play, they still trailed by just six (52-46). At that point, the Cardinals finally ended the competitive phase of the game with a 9-0 run. A three-point play by Nathalie Fontaine was followed by treys by Carter and Justice, and BSU led 61-46 with six minutes remaining. NIU was able to get within eight but no closer, and the Cardinals eventually won by 10.
Both teams shot over 40 percent overall and were roughly even in free throws. However, Carter's six 3-pointers led to 11 for the Cardinals as a team, and that far out-paced NIU's four. Carter's 23 points were a career high, and she added six assists and five rebounds. Justice sank three treys and ended the game with 13 points for BSU. NIU was led by Jenna Thorp, who scored 14 points.
Ball State (13-15, 8-9 MAC) closes the regular season at home against Toledo on Saturday. Northern Illinois (9-18, 5-12 MAC also hosts their final regular season game on Saturday; their opponent is Western Michigan. If the Huskies win and Eastern Michigan loses, NIU could end up with a first round home game in the MAC tournament.
Kent State 69, OHIO 64
The Kent State Golden Flashes went to Athens, Ohio on Wednesday night and stole a 69-64 decision over the Ohio Bobcats. The victory is the third in Kent State's last six games and moves the Flashes into a tie with Ohio in the MAC standings.
The first half was a back-and-forth contest that featured six ties and nine lead changes. Neither team led by more than five points during the period, and most of the play occurred with the teams within one possession of each other.
It appeared as if Ohio might go into halftime with the lead, as they took a 30-28 advantage with 1:54 left in the half. However, the Flashes scored six straight points before the horn. Ohio missed their final three shots, including a 3-pointer attempt by Kiyanna Black within the final 10 seconds. KSU led 34-30 at the break.
The Bobcats were able to tie the game at 36 early in the second half, but Kent State seized control of the match with an 11-0 run. Amber Dunlap spurred the burst with a 3-pointer, and the Flashes grabbed a 47-36 lead. Just over one minute later, a three-point play by Janae Peterson gave KSU a 12-point edge, which would prove to be their biggest of the game.
Ohio chipped away and pulled to within one point on two occasions. The second occurred after 3-pointers from Mariah Byard and Quiera Lampkins. Lampkins' three came with 23 seconds left, and Ashley Evans followed with an offensive foul for Kent State. On the other end, KSU's Mikell Chinn fouled Kat Yelle, and the Bobcats had a chance to take the lead. Yelle missed both free throws, and Evans hit a pair on the other end.
Byard missed a three that would have tied the game at 67 with five seconds left, and Evans sank two more free throws to seal the Kent State victory.
Kent State overcame 21 turnovers by shooting 49 percent from the floor. The Flashes made four of nine 3-pointers and went 17-of-21 from the free throw line. They also had a a big 43-27 rebounding edge. Ohio shot well inside the arc, but from outside, they were only 5-of-27.
KSU's balanced attack was led by Evans, who scored 18. Montia Johnson and Rachel Mendelsohn added 13, and Johnson pulled down 11 rebounds. Lampkins was highest among Ohio scorers with 16 points.
The Flashes (7-21, 4-13 MAC) close the regular season on Saturday at Buffalo. Ohio (9-19, 4-13 MAC) must travel to play Miami for their final regular season game, also on Saturday. Both teams will play a first round MAC tournament game on the road on Monday.
Now, here's a look at the updated MAC standings...
|Eastern Division||Won||Lost||Won||Lost||Next Game|
|Bowling Green||16||1||26||3||at Akron (3/8)|
|Akron||14||3||20||8||vs BGSU (3/8)|
|Buffalo||9||8||16||12||vs KSU (3/8)|
|Ohio||4||13||9||19||at Miami (3/8)|
||4||13||7||21||at Buffalo (3/8)
|Miami||3||14||7||21||vs Ohio (3/8)
|Western Division||Won||Lost||Won||Lost||Next Game
|Central Michigan||16||1||20||9||at EMU (3/8)|
||9||8||14||14||at BSU (3/8)
||8||9||13||15||vs Toledo (3/8)
||8||9||12||16||at NIU (3/8)
||6||11||16||12||vs CMU (3/8)
||5||12||9||18||vs WMU (3/8)|
Here's how the MAC Tournament bracket would appear if the festivities began today:
|1st||6||Ball State||vs.||11||Kent State
|2nd||5 or 12||Toledo or Miami
||vs.||8 or 9||EMU or NIU
|2nd||7 or 10||WMU or Ohio||vs.||6 or 11||BSU or KSU
||vs.||5, 8, 9 or 12|
|3rd||3||Akron||vs.||6, 7, 10 or 11|
|SF||1||CMU or BGSU
||vs.||4, 5, 8, 9, or 12|
|SF||2||CMU or BGSU
||vs.||3, 6, 7, 10 or 11|
|Champ.||SF #1 winner||vs.||SF #2 winner|