Women’s basketball enters MAC Tournament quarterfinals against rival EMU
Throughout the regular season, the Central Michigan women’s basketball team worked to become outright Mid-American Conference champions.
Now, it is a new season for head coach Sue Guevara and the Chippewas (25-4, 17-1 MAC) as the team gets set to start MAC Tournament action.
Holding the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, CMU has a quarterfinals battle set with in-state rival Eastern Michigan (11-19, 6-12 MAC), the No. 9 seed. The game tips off at noon on March 7 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
“If we start thinking about the next game before we play the first one, we’re in trouble,” Guevara said. “It’s the same type of the approach, it’s one game at a time.”
The Chippewas’ four losses have come to Purdue, Duquesne, Quinnipiac and Buffalo. On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 Buffalo will play No. 10 Kent State at 5 p.m. on March 7 in hopes of advancing to the semifinals against either No. 6 Western Michigan or No. 3 Ball State.
CMU senior forward Tinara Moore, the MAC Player of the Year, is fourth in the conference in scoring at 19.2 points per game and second in the league with 9.6 rebounds per game.
Along with being named MAC Player of the Year, Moore was named the Defensive Player of the Year and owned a spot on the All-MAC First Team.
Finishing second to Moore in the Player of the Year voting was CMU junior guard Presley Hudson, who received All-MAC First Team honors. She is fifth in the league with 18.6 points per game, along with logging 5.4 assists and shooting 92.6 percent from the free throw line, which is fifth in the NCAA Division I.
Other key players for the Chippewas include junior forward Reyna Frost and freshman guard Micaela Kelly. Frost averages 14.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game to average a double-double.
Kelly averages 10.8 points and 3.8 assists for Guevara’s squad.
"I've just been really fortunate to have some really good players, and some very coachable players,” Guevara said. “Been very fortunate to recruit here in the state of Michigan. We have good high school coaches here. We've been able to get good players."
In order to make it to the quarterfinals, EMU had to squeak past No. 8 Northern Illinois (15-15, 7-11 MAC) at the NIU Convocation Center, 84-77, on March 5. In the final four minutes of the game, the Huskies were unable to score a field goal, giving EMU an upset victory.
Eastern Michigan received impressive production for redshirt junior guard Danielle Minott and freshman guard Courtnie Lewis, who both scored 22 points in the win over NIU. Off the bench, senior guard Micah Robinson scored 15 points off the bench on 5-of-7 shooting from the field.
The win against the Huskies gave EMU its seventh tournament win over a higher-ranked opponent in program history and the first since the 2015-16 season.
Over the season, EMU has been led by Minott, who averaged 16.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Along with Minott and Lewis (15.1), senior guard Sasha Dailey is the third and final Eagle to average double digits on the scoresheet with 13.1 points per contest.
The last two times CMU and Eastern met in the MAC Tournament was in the 2015-16 season. The Eagles, as a No. 6 seed, took on the No. 2 ranked Chippewas and lost, 86-71, in the semifinals. EMU took home the tournament title in 2004 and 2016, posting a 14-10 record at Quicken Loans Arena.
CMU topped EMU twice during the 2017-18 regular season, 95-72 and 95-82.
On Feb. 17 at McGuirk Arena, Frost posted 14 points and 20 rebounds against the Eagles. Moore scored a team-high 26 points in the win for the Chippewas. However, an interesting struggle for CMU was defense.
"We had major problems defending,” Guevara said. “Defending the penetration. Our defense has to be better defending penetration and we're going to work on taking charges."
The winner of CMU and EMU will play in the tournament semifinal game at 11 a.m. on March 9 against either No. 4 Miami (Ohio) or No. 5 Ohio. The winner of the MAC Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.