Women’s basketball’s season ends with 78-73 loss to Oklahoma despite Bradford’s monster effort
COLUMBUS, OHIO— Sophomore guard Crystal Bradford did all she could.
The six-foot sophomore from Detroit scored a Central Michigan tournament record 36 points, hauled down 14 rebounds and recorded nine steals, but the Chippewas (21-12) fell to Oklahoma 78-73 in an NCAA tournament first-round game in Columbus, Ohio Saturday afternoon.
The win was not an easy one for the No. 6 seed Sooners.
“CMU gave us all we wanted and then some,” said OU head coach Sherri Coale. “Crystal Bradford was unbelievable; she was all over the floor.”
Time and time again, the Chippewas fought to within four points of the lead, and time and time again, the gritty Sooners beat them back.
Trailing by eleven with 3:10 left in the game, the Chippewas refused to give up, battling back to make the score 73-68 with 1:06 to go and had a chance to move within two.
But junior guard Niki DiGuilio’s three-point attempt rimmed out. OU made its free throws down the stretch to secure its spot in the second round.
“We kept battling back,” said head coach Sue Guevara. “We did a lot of really good things this year, and I couldn’t be prouder of the effort we gave today.”
Bradford scored the first seven points for the Chippewas, giving them a 7-6 lead at the first media timeout.
From there, the Chippewas got sloppy, turning the ball over three times, leading to thirteen-straight points for Oklahoma, which made it 20-10 with 11:15 to go in the first half.
Three-point shooting from Bradford and DiGuilio kept CMU close as OU led it 27-23 with 6:34 to go in the half.
A pair of free throws by junior forward Taylor Johnson cut the OU lead to 34-29 with 3:37 to go.
The Sooners closed the first half with back-to-back-to-back three-point shots by senior Joanna McFarland, junior Morgan Hook and freshman Nicole Kornet made it 43-34 heading to the locker room.
The Chippewas opened the second half on a 7-2 run to make it 45-41 with 17:51 to go in the game.
A free throw by Bradford got CMU within three, 52-49, with 13:42 to go, but the Sooners would again pull away on the back of its leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg.
After scoring just four points in the first half, the junior from Las Vegas knocked down three-straight three-point shots to extend the OU lead to 58-49 with 11:32 to go.
But CMU would not go away. The Chippewas’ pressure defense forced several OU turnovers, allowing them to get back into the game and make their final push.
OU committed 24 turnovers in the game compared to just seven for the Chippewas.
“OU had people who came in and made shots for them in the second half,” Guevara said. “We did a nice job on Ellenberg in the first half, changing up defenses on her.”
In addition to Bradford’s monster game, DiGuilio added ten points. Senior guard Brandie Baker scored 12 points in her final game at CMU.
Guard Jalisa Olive and forward Jessica Schroll also played in their final game for the Chippewas.
“I had a bunch of warriors this year,” Guevara said. “The schedule we played got us battled tested for today. As a coach, you can only ask that your players give you everything they have, and today they did. Our kids played with a lot of heart.”
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