With a 75-65 victory over the Ball State Cardinals (17-13), the Eastern Michigan Eagles (22-11) are just one game away from doing something that has never been done in MAC women's tournament history.
The victory puts the Eagles just win away from becoming the first MAC women's team to ever win five games in six days to win the MAC's auto-bid to the NCAA Division I tournament. EMU hit six threes in the first ten minutes of action and led from start to finish. Cha Sweeney had 18 points in the first half, but the Cards were able to keep her down to single digits in the latter half.
The Eagles led 42-27 at halftime, but the Cards wouldn't quit. Even after a Eagles' drained another three in the opening seconds of the final half, Nathalie Fontaine helped lead the Cardinals on a quick 6-0 spurt to cut the lead back down to 12. EMU responded, though, with five straight points to extend the lead back up to 16. Offensively speaking, the Cards just kept coming, but for several minutes in the second half, Ball State was unable to string together any stops. Every time the Cards would score, EMU quickly responded and at no point showed any signs of fatigue.
Both Jill Morrison and Fontaine led Ball State with over 15 points a piece, but the offensive rebounds and the second chances Eastern got was what really killed Ball State's hopes for a comeback. In the first half the Eagles pulled down 11 offensive rebounds compared to Ball State's three. It was no different in the second half either, as the Eagles continued out rebound the Cards until the end.
Throughout the middle of the second half, the Eagles went on a long drought, but the Cards did too. With an opportunity to erase Eastern's lead, the Cardinals could only get the game within eight with about 6:30 to play.
With the game at 47-35 after the 8:00 media timeout, Ball State was able to make one more comeback on the back of Shelbie Justice's three point shooting. Two straight triples brought Eastern's lead down to just eight with 1:12 remaining, and Sweeney would miss three of four free throws to keep the door ajar. But, with a chance to cut the lead to six, the Cards missed a three and Janay Morton knocked down four straight free throws to seal away a EMU victory.
EMU becomes the first six-seed to make the MAC women's title game, and will play in the MAC title game versus a very good Ohio team (who the Eagles did beat once this year) tomorrow at 1:00 pm Cleveland time.
|Player||Ball State||Eastern Michigan|
|Points||N. Fontaine (22)||C. Sweeney (25)|
|Rebounds||N. Fontaine (8)||J. Bucknor (14)|
|Assists||J. Morrison (7)||C. Sweeney (5)|
|Blocks||M. Monaco (3)||P. Webb and J. Bucknor (2)|
|Steals||S. Justice and N. Fontaine (2)||J. Morton (3)|