Women's basketball boasts strong fourth quarter, downs Vanderbilt


Freshman forward Kyra Bussell cheers during the basketball game against Eastern Michigan on March 7 at Quicken Loans Arena. 

Central Michigan women's basketball coach Sue Guevara knew it wasn't going to be easy against Vanderbilt, a tough SEC opponent. 

Proving herself correct, CMU and Vanderbilt traded baskets for nearly the entire game until senior forward Reyna Frost provided a momentum swing on a 3-pointer for a 55-52 lead with 4:37 remaining.

Her second-straight triple made it 58-52 just over one minute later.

The Chippewas (8-1) finished in the win column for the seventh-straight game with a 66-57 victory over the Commodores (4-6) on Dec. 15 at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee.

"Frost hit some big, fat threes for us that finally got the confidence going a little bit," Guevara said. "For the size of that team, for us to out-rebound, I'm very happy with that."

Senior guard Presley Hudson paced CMU with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists on 9-of-17 shooting from the field, but the combination of sophomore center Kyra Bussell, junior forward Gabrielle Bird and freshman forward Anika Weekes off the bench made the difference.

Bussell posted 12 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes. Bird and Weekes combined for seven points and six rebounds.

"That's what you want your bench to do," Guevara said. "Those were good minutes for our bench to get experience in this type of game."

Guevara hopes Bussell can continue her high-octane performance with matchups against two ACC teams and Tulane (Conference USA) forthcoming before the start of Mid-American Conference action.

"For her to be coming into her own right now is great," Guevara said of Bussell. "She doesn't have to do a whole lot more, just keep consistency."

Junior forward Mariella Fasoula scored eight of Vanderbilt's first 13 points to help provide a 13-11 edge after the first quarter. She improved her point total to 19 points at halftime, as CMU and Vanderbilt were knotted in a 30-30 tie.

Despite 19 first-half points, Fasoula only scored 21 points. Guevara preached defense to the Chippewas in the locker room, and her squad executed. 

"I said, 'Look, they have one player. One player that's hurting us,'" Guevara said. "But we only had one player in Presley Hudson because nobody else was looking to shoot the ball."

Fasoula, Vanderbilt's star player, added seven rebounds and three assists. She shot 57.1 percent from the field. 

In last season's 92-75 loss to CMU, junior guard Cierra Walker went 3-for-4 from the 3-point line and finished with 11 points. On her home floor in 2018, she was just 1-for-6 from downtown – opening the game with a 3-pointer.

Down the stretch, junior guard Kalei Clemons-Green scored a layup to cut Vanderbilt's deficit to seven points with 33 seconds left. Two free throws six seconds later from sophomore guard Micaela Kelly capped off the 66-57 win for the Chippewas.

CMU returns to Mount Pleasant for a matchup against No. 4 Louisville at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 at McGuirk Arena. Then, Guevara's group travels to take part in the Miami Holiday Classic against Tulane and No. 24 Miami (Fla.) on Dec. 29-30, respectively. 

"It's a nice springboard going into conference play," Guevara said. "We are embracing the challenge."