Things looked bleak with three minutes remaining in regulation but Central Michigan women’s basketball picked up momentum.
Junior guards Crystal Bradford and Jessica Green’s offensive pushes cut the Ball State lead to three points with seconds on the clock and Green hit a 3-pointer to salvage the team’s undefeated home record. CMU never trailed in overtime, knocking off the Cardinals 85-72 Thursday at McGuirk Arena.
The Chippewas brought their physical play back to campus to take on the Cardinals for the second time this season. It was apparent from tip-off that CMU and Ball State would be full of energy with a few more games remaining on schedule and the Mid-American Conference tournament a few weeks away.
“There was a lot of physical contact and there was a lot of complaining (from our players) about some of the calls the officials were making,” said head coach Sue Guevara. “It gets really frustrating, but we handled our frustration well.”
In what started as a slow offensive struggle, quickly evolved into a back-and-forth battle for rebounds and second-chance points.
Both teams supplied defensive attacks that kept each other in check throughout the game’s opening moments. There were 16 turnovers committed overall in the first 17 minutes of the game. The crowd seemed to feed off of the physical, defensive-minded game on the court, delivering support in a very close game.
“Our crowd is not fickle,” Guevara said. “They don’t just jump on the bandwagon and they get frustrated just like we do, but they’re always with us and they’re always encouraging. We have to have that and we can feel their energy.”
The Chippewas and Cardinals saw six ties and five lead changes overall, a majority coming toward the latter portion of the second half.
“I thought we went back to an old-school kind of game and as the game went on (the referees) let us play,” said junior guard Crystal Bradford. “Playing the new-school style of game we do, I forgot about the way the game used to be played and I was starting to like it.”
Coming out of the gate in the second half, Bradford and junior forward Jas’Mine Bracey stole the show, each finishing the game with double-doubles. Bradford tied her career-high in points with 36 and had 16 rebounds, while Bracey contributed 11 points and 21 rebounds, good enough for a new career-high in total boards.
There were a number of scrums for the ball in the paint and on the baselines that fueled the animosity between the two MAC opponents. Bodies were constantly hitting the floor to secure possession of the ball.
Turnovers and strong defensive play from the Chippewas halted the Cardinals from pulling away as the game went into halftime, but the team’s shooting, especially from 3-point range, was all but absent for the first 20 minutes. A lone 3-pointer from senior guard Niki DiGuilio attributed to a 1-for-9 mark from beyond the arc in the first half.
“I’ve been working a lot on my field goal percentage so it was a very frustrating first half for me to see how many times I actually shot the ball,” Bradford said.
CMU will be in action on the road Sunday against Toledo.