Women’s basketball called on junior Crystal Bradford when they needed her most, and she came through in a huge way for the Chippewas Thursday night.
Bradford hit the game-winning 3-point shot with 0.2 seconds remaining in the game to give CMU a 94-91 win over Dayton in CMU’s 2013-14 home-opener at McGuirk Arena.
Bradford’s off-balance bucket came just moments after forward Taylor Johnson tallied only her second score of the game – a 3-pointer with 5.3 seconds left, to tie the game at 91-91.
“I was so excited,” said Bradford. “After I put the shot up, I didn’t look at it. I knew it had a chance to go in. I just listened to the crowd and they went crazy. It was something really special.”
After Johnson’s game-tying bucket, the Flyers foolishly forced the ball up the court with five seconds left and CMU stole it away.
It was then that Bradford, who set a McGuirk Arena record for points scored in a single game with 34, made what she called the “black mamba fade-away.”
“That was Crystal’s shot to make,” Johnson said. “It was absolutely exhilarating. After I made my (game-tying) shot, I had all the faith in the world that we were going to win. We didn’t need overtime.”
The Chippewas battled back from down by more than eight points three times in the game before eventually tying the Flyers. The game appeared to be over after Dayton went on a 7-0 run to take an 81-73 lead with 5:28 left in the game.
CMU scored nine points in the final minute and a half of the contest.
“It feels good to be home,” said head coach Sue Guevara. “I hope this game entices (fans) to come back and support us. You saw Crystal make a big, fat shot and you saw Taylor make a big, fat shot. This is just one more exciting step toward the ultimate goal.”
CMU had four players score in double-figures in the contest.
A severe lack of defense troubled the women early in the first half. After three straight Dayton turnovers, Bradford hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to give CMU its first lead, 23-21, midway through the first half.
Forcing turnovers was essential to the women’s first-half success as they turned 15 first-half Dayton mistakes into 11 points in the opening period.
CMU vastly improved from the free-throw line, a nagging issue this season, shooting 54.5 percent as a team from the charity stripe on the game.
CMU shot a dismal 45 percent from the bonus stripe two weeks ago in an 84-72 loss to Marquette.
The Chippewas saw major contribution from post player, junior forward Jas’Mine Bracey who tallied her ninth career double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
“I know what my job is on this team. I just try to go out there and do that no matter what else is going on,” Bracey said. “We never got down on ourselves, even when we were down big. We knew we always had a chance.”
CMU will travel to Dayton to conclude the home-and-away series on Dec. 30.
“I have no idea what they are going to be like next time,” Guevara said. “I just hope we are going to be a better basketball team by the time we play them the second time.”
Whether or not Bradford will drop 34 points on the Flyers again later this month remains to be seen, but for the time being, No. 23′s confidence is as high as can be.
“It’s a big moment for me,” Bradford said. “We feed off the energy that the fans bring us. My legs didn’t have much left when I hit the last shot.
“I would say this moment ranks pretty high in my career.”