Women’s basketball clinched a share of the program’s first-ever regular season Mid-American Conference West Division title following a hard-fought 85-77 win over Northern Illinois on Saturday.
The win plays an important role in Central Michigan’s MAC tournament hopes.
With four conference games remaining, the team has clinched the MAC West Division outright, keeping out of reach of second-best Toledo, who is 8-6 in MAC play after losing Sunday to Western Michigan.
CMU earnd a top two spot and two bye rounds in the conference tournament, placing the team in the semifinals without playing a single game.
Since the MAC tournament’s restructuring, only the 2012 CMU team has made it to the final without a double or single round bye. However, the Chippewas lost to Eastern Michigan.
In the east division, Bowling Green matches CMU’s record at 13-1. BGSU was the only team to serve the Chippewas a conference loss (Wednesday) and presents one of the few major challenges they have faced this season.
The win over Northern Illinois improves the Chippewas to 17-9 overall and 13-1 in conference play, securing at least a top-four seed.
After a closely contested first half, the Chippewas pulled away with a barrage of 3-point plays and shots from behind the arc.
NIU used an 8-0 run to take a 16-10 lead with 11:10 remaining in the first half. The Huskies continued to control the game, taking a 21-12 lead over the next three minutes. Amanda Corral led the Huskies with 23 points in 37 minutes of action.
Looking to respond, the Chippewas turned to junior guard Kerby Tamm to cut the lead. Tamm hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put CMU within striking distance.
She finished with 12 points and shot 3-of-7 from the field.
In the second half, the Chippewas started to attack the basket. Junior guard Crystal Bradford converted a pair of 3-point plays, while a steal from junior guard Jessica Green led to a 3-point play for sophomore guard Da’Jourie Turner and a 54-49 lead.
Senior forward Taylor Johnson was able to continue the Chippewas strong second half with a pair of threes and the team never looked back.
Bradford recorded a double-double with 29 points and 10 rebounds, junior forward Jas’Mine Bracey also added a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
The win gives the Chippewas the most conference wins in one season since the 1985-86 campaign, when the team finished 13-5 in the MAC.