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MAC Women's Basketball Weekend Roundup: Regular Season Finales

All 12 MAC teams completed the 2014 regular season on Saturday afternoon. What happened, and how do the games impact the upcoming conference tournament?

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

(Click links for box-scores.)

Bowling Green 77, AKRON 76

The Bowling Green Falcons scored with 6.6 seconds left to pull out a 77-76 road win over the Akron Zips on Saturday afternoon. The victory provided BGSU with a season sweep of Akron and clinched (with help from Eastern Michigan) an outright MAC regular season championship and the #1 seed in the upcoming MAC tournament.

The contest was every bit as good (and as close) as you would expect from two teams that had combined to win 25 straight conference games. Neither team ever led by more than seven points, and there were 11 ties and 13 lead changes. Of those, nine of the ties and nine of the lead changes occurred in the second half.

Akron out-shot Bowling Green in the first half, 47 to 31 percent, but the Falcons were able to connect on four 3-pointers and were 8-of-8 from the free throw line. In addition, they outscored Akron 13-2 in points off turnovers, despite the fact that both teams gave the ball away seven times. This allowed BGSU to stay in the game and trail by only six at halftime.

Another factor in the Falcons' favor was the absence of Zips' star Rachel Tecca. Tecca left the game due to injury after three minutes (and two points), and she did not return.

In the second half, Bowling Green shot the ball better, but so did Akron, who made 56 percent of their shots. However, the Falcons were 15-of-18 from the line after halftime and again took advantage of Zips' mistakes. Eleven Akron turnovers led to 16 BGSU points, while the Falcons gave the ball away only five times in the second half.

The Zips led for much of the second half, albeit by a small margin. After 12 minutes, they led by five, but two Erica Donovan free throws brought BGSU within three. For the final 7:33 of the game, the margin would be no more than one possession.

Near the 2:00 mark, Hanna Luburgh and Miriam Justinger traded threes, and BGSU led 72-71. Anita Brown followed with a free throw and, after an offensive rebound, Luburgh sank a jumper for a two-point Akron lead. On the ensuing possession, Alexis Rogers pulled down an offensive rebound off her own miss, and shortly after, Carly Young fouled Justinger as she attempted a 3-pointer. She made all three free throws, but she followed that up by fouling Luburgh, who drilled both of her free shots.

Akron led 76-75 with 23 seconds left. Halfhill brought the ball up the court and ultimately chose to drive the lane. She was able to get her layup to go, and Kacie Cassell could not answer on the other end.

Rogers struggled from the floor at times for BGSU but ultimately led all players with 23 points and 15 rebounds. She also had seven steals. Jill Stein posted 12 points and seven rebounds, and Justinger scored 11 off the bench. Luburgh led Akron with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

BGSU (27-3, 17-1 MAC) will now play in the MAC tournament semifinals on Friday against an opponent to be determined on Thursday. Akron (20-9, 14-4 MAC) will be the #3 seed in the MAC tournament and plays in the third round on Thursday. If they win, they will face Central Michigan in the semifinals.

EASTERN MICHIGAN 99, Central Michigan 84 (OT)

The Eastern Michigan Eagles trailed for all but 23 seconds of regulation time, yet somehow, they found a way to persevere and beat the Central Michigan Chippewas 99-84 in Ypsilanti, Mich. on Saturday afternoon.

The Chippewas got a taste of their own medicine on Saturday. After spending much of the last month administering amazing comeback after amazing comeback, CMU finally the same happen to them.

Central Michigan opened the game with a Niki DiGuilio 3-pointer just 20 seconds in and maintained that lead throughout the scheduled 40 minutes. That lead quickly ballooned to 16-4, and despite a 7-0 run by EMU, the Chippewas led by 14 (30-16) with 6:27 left in the first half. Another EMU run, this time 14-3, cut the deficit to just three, but a pair of Taylor Johnson treys allowed CMU to go to the locker room with a 39-32 edge.

The Eagles never trailed by double digits in the second half and got within one possession on several occasions. However, CMU still found themselves ahead by nine (69-60) with 5:41 to play. EMU then scored seven in a row on buckets by Cha Sweeney, Janay Morton and Desyree Thomas to pull within two. The Chippewas then regained some measure of control with a 3-pointer from Jessica Green with 91 seconds left in regulation. The triple gave CMU a 76-71 lead.

Olivia Fouty followed with a layup on an Eagles' possession that included two offensive rebounds. Central Michigan got an offensive rebound of their own on their next possession, but Johnson turned the ball over. Sweeney then converted a layup, and EMU trailed just 76-75 with 19 seconds on the clock. After a foul, Green split a pair of free throws for CMU, and the Eagles had 14 seconds to overcome a 77=75 deficit.

Thomas stormed past defenders and drove for a layup with just three seconds left to finally tie the game. Despite not leading for a single second in regulation, EMU sent the game to overtime tied at 77.

The overtime was no contest. Central Michigan made only one field goal until there was just 1:06 left, and by that time, they were trailing 90-80. Shannise Heady scored two baskets to open the overtime, and Natachia Watkins added four more points in the 13-4 run that opened the extra frame. EMU made 12-of-14 free throws during the five-minute period, and they ultimately built a 17-point lead before settling for the 15-point win.

The Eagles' success was simple. In the second half and overtime, they made 19 of their 23 free throws. They pulled down 13 offensive rebounds to CMU's six. They forced 11 turnovers and gave away just two. They outscored the Chippewas 35-9 in second-chance points and points off turnovers.

EMU's individual numbers were a display of the present and future of the program. Watkins, a senior, finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Sweeney, a freshman, posted 21 points and five rebounds. Thomas and Heady added 17 and 13 points, respectively. Fouty, also a senior, finished her final home game with eight points and eight rebounds.

CMU ended the game with five double-figure scorers. Crystal Bradford once again knocked on the door of a triple-double, as she earned 18 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists in the losing effort. Johnson led the Chippewas with 23 points, and DiGuilio added 19. However, DiGuilio also committed seven turnovers. Jas'Mine Bracey contributed a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds.

The Eagles (17-12, 7-11 MAC) are now the #8 seed in the MAC tournament and will host Northern Illinois on Monday evening in the first round. If they win, they would play the winner of the Ball State-Kent State game on Wednesday. The Chippewas (20-10, 16-2 MAC) earned the #2 seed for the tournament and get a bye directly to Friday's semifinals.

BUFFALO 64, Kent State 51

The Buffalo Bulls earned the #4 seed in the MAC tournament and a bye to the third round by defeating the Kent State Golden Flashes 64-51 in Buffalo, N.Y. on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulls shot 43 percent from the floor and forced 27 turnovers in a game they led virtually throughout. Larissa Lurken drained a 3-pointer for Kent State to open the game's scoring, but Kristen Sharkey scored three straight layups to give Buffalo the lead for good. The Flashes went nearly nine minutes before their second field goal of the game and fell behind 12-4.

Kent State finally ended the drought on an Ashley Evans layup and was able to stay within one or two possessions for the remainder of the first half and the early minutes of the second. Buffalo finally began expanding their advantage during the second half and finally gained their first double-digit lead on an "and-1" score by Mackenzie Loesing with 11:23 left in the game.

Late in the second half, the Flashes scored four straight to get within nine points, but Alexus Malone sank a pair of treys to end Kent State's hopes. The Bulls led by as much as 16 in the final two minutes before ultimately winning by 13.

Sharkey scored 17 points and gathered eight rebounds for Buffalo. Loesing posted 16 points off the bench, and Christa Baccas added eight points and a team-best 10 rebounds. Ashley Evans and Montia Johnson led Kent State with 14 and 12 points, respectively.

Buffalo (17-12, 10-8 MAC) opens MAC tournament play on Thursday in the third round. Kent State (7-22, 4-14 MAC) is relegated to the #12 seed and will play at Ball State in the first round on Monday evening.

BALL STATE 69, Toledo 56

The Ball State Cardinals finished the MAC regular season with an even 9-9 record after defeating the Toledo Rockets 69-56 in Muncie, Ind. on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals earned the MAC's top seed (#5) for teams playing in the first round and relegated Toledo into the #6 seed and the side of the bracket with Akron and Central Michigan.

The Cardinals were out-rebounded by Toledo but committed five fewer turnovers. They also shot 40 percent and held the Rockets to just 19 percent from the floor in the first half. Ball State further helped themselves by making 21 of their 26 free throws (80 percent).

Toledo actually took an early 3-0 lead on an Andola Dortch 3-pointer, then led again 5-4 when Brianna Jones sank a jumper 4:30 into the game. However, they would only make four more field goals for the rest of the first half, and after Shelbie Justice drilled a three for the Cardinals, Toledo would trail for the remainder of the game.

The Rockets were able to find enough offense so that they only trailed 18-13 when Ana Capotosto sank a trey with 9:23 left in the half. However, they would only make one more field goal, and they would not score at all for the rest of the half after Janice Monakana scored with 7:03 remaining. It's not that Toledo was overly loose with the ball; they committed only eight first-half turnovers. They just couldn't find the bottom of the hoop and made only six of their 31 field goal attempts.

Ball State wasn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard, either, but they had enough to build a 12-point lead at halftime (27-15). They took as much as a 17-point lead early in the second half, and it appeared they would win handily.

The Rockets stormed back, though, and they got within one possession on multiple occasions inside the final seven minutes. They even had several opportunities to tie the game or take the lead but could never finish. Shots stopped falling in again, and Ball State converted enough free throws to build the lead back up to 13 again.

Nathalie Fontaine made 10 of 15 shots and scored a game high 26 points. Justice contributed 14 points, and Brandy Woody added 11 more for Ball State. Dortch led the Rockets with 14 points and six assists, and both Inma Zanoguera and Brianna Jones posted double-doubles.

Both teams finish the regular season with 14-15 records, and both are 9-9 against MAC foes. The Cardinals will host Kent State in the MAC tournament first round on Monday, while Toledo will host the Ohio Bobcats as the #6 seed.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS 59, Western Michigan 51

The Northern Illinois Huskies were not able to secure a home game in the first round of the MAC tournament, but they did end the regular season on a positive note by defeating the Western Michigan Broncos 59-51 in DeKalb, Ill. on Saturday afternoon. The loss is the third consecutive for the Broncos.

The Huskies out-shot the Broncos 52 to 30 percent in the second half to overcome a halftime deficit. They scored first to take an opening 2-0 lead, but Alex Morton poured in a layup and then a 3-pointer for WMU, as the Broncos took a 5-2 lead. WMU pushed their lead up to 16-6, and it would remain at least five points until the very end of the half.

NIU still trailed by 10 (31-21) with 1:55 left in the half, but they finished by scoring the last six points. The final three of those came on an and-1 layup by Ally Lehman, and Northern Illinois trailed just 31-27 at the break.

Northern Illinois continued their run with an 11-2 burst to start the second half. Four different players scored during those first four minutes, including a 3-pointer by Amanda Corral and two buckets from Jenna Thorp. All-of-a-sudden, the Huskies had their biggest lead of the game to that point (38-33).

WMU fought back to tie the game 40-40 at the 7:00 mark of the half, but they would not score another field goal for over 11 minutes. NIU went on a 16-4 run during that time to take a 56-44 edge. Lehman and Natecia Augusta led the charge with five points apiece. The Broncos finally started to get some shots to drop, but Northern Illinois made three free throws in the final two minutes. That was more than enough, as the Broncos won by eight.

NIU's leading scorers were Lehman (16) and Corral (13). Both shared in the team lead in rebounds with five. Nine different players scored for WMU, all of whom scored at least three points. Marquisha Harris led the team with eight points, while Michelle O'Brien pulled down six rebounds.

Northern Illinois (10-18, 6-12 MAC) will be the #9 seed in the upcoming MAC tournament and travels to Eastern Michigan for Monday's first round. Western Michigan (12-17, 8-10 MAC) will host a first-round game but has dropped to the #7 seed and will host Miami on Monday.

MIAMI 68, Ohio 63

The Miami RedHawks closed their regular season by ending an eight-game losing streak with a 68-63 victory over the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday in Oxford, Ohio. The win by Miami causes a three-way tie at the bottom of the MAC standings between Miami, Ohio and Kent State.

There were three ties and five lead changes in the first half. Despite Ohio's poor shooting (22.6%), they were able to stay step-for-step with the RedHawks for much of the first 20 minutes. However, Miami put together a 12-4 run to close the half, and that transformed a three-point deficit into a 33-26 halftime lead.

The RedHawks were up by eight points after 5:20 in the second half, but Ohio tied the game at 44 with an 8-0 run. The game was still tied, 53-53, with 9:00 to go when Miami went on a run of their own. The 9-0 burst took the clock down to the six-minute mark, but it did not put away the Bobcats.

Up 66-57 with 2:00 to go, Miami missed two straight shots that were followed by successful 3-pointers by Ohio's Mariah Byard and Kat Yelle. After a missed layup and turnover by Miami's Hannah Robertson, Ohio had two chances to tie in the last 15 seconds. Byard missed one 3-pointer, but Destini Cooper pulled down the offensive rebound. After a timeout, Kiyanna Black missed another trey, and two Hannah McCue free throws in the final second put the game away for the RedHawks.

Despite the late turnover, Hannah Robertson led all scorers with 18 points in her final regular season game with Miami. McCue and fellow senior Erica Almady scored 10 each. Nine different players scored for Miami. Quiera Lampkins posted 17 points for the Bobcats, while Black added 13 more.

Miami (8-21, 4-14 MAC) has earned the #10 seed in the MAC tournament based on their January win over Akron. They will travel to play #7 seed Western Michigan on Monday in the first round. Ohio (9-20, 4-14 MAC) wins the tiebreaker with Kent State for the #11 seed thanks to a victory over Buffalo, and their first-round game will be on the road at Toledo.


Now, here's a look at the final 2014 MAC standings...

Conference Conference Overall Overall
Eastern Division Won Lost Won Lost
Bowling Green 17 1 27 3
Akron 14 4 20 9
Buffalo 10 8 17 12
Ohio 4 14 9 20
4 14 8 21
Kent State
4 14 7 22
Western Division Won Lost Won Lost
Central Michigan 16 2 20 10
9 9 14 15
Ball State
9 9 14 15
Western Michigan
8 10 12 17
Eastern Michigan
7 11 17 12
Northern Illinois
6 12 10 18


And, here's the official 2014 MAC Women's Basketball Tournament bracket:

1st 5 Ball State
vs. 12 Kent State
1st 8 Eastern Michigan
vs. 9 Northern Illinois
1st 7 Western Michigan
vs. 10 Miami
1st 6 Toledo vs. 11 Ohio
2nd 5 or 12 BSU or KSU
vs. 8 or 9 EMU or NIU
2nd 7 or 10 WMU or Miami vs. 6 or 11 Toledo or Ohio
3rd 4 Buffalo
vs. 5, 8, 9 or 12
3rd 3 Akron vs. 6, 7, 10 or 11
vs. 4, 5, 8, 9, or 12
vs. 3, 6, 7, 10 or 11
Champ. SF #1 winner vs. SF #2 winner