Behind spectacular rebounding numbers, women's basketball hands Ohio first loss

Sophomore guard Micaela Kelly stands on the court on Jan. 5 in McGuirk Arena.

Reyna Frost sunk a jump shot with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter to give Central Michigan a double-digit lead, and coach Sue Guevara's team never looked back.

Surging early and often, the Chippewas used momentum to increase their margin to 22 points, 45-23, late in the second quarter.

While Ohio cut its deficit to 12 points less than two minutes into the third, CMU fended off a late surge with ease, earning an 88-70 victory over the Bobcats (12-1, 1-1 MAC) at the Convocation Center on Jan. 9.

"We withstood their punches, and we punched back," Guevara said. "They're aggressive, but I give our kids credit. This is a tough place to play." 

The Chippewas (11-3, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) were led by Frost, logging 23 points and 17 rebounds. The senior forward, who has won three-straight MAC Player of the Week awards, shot 7-of-13 from the field.

Coming into the game, Ohio was one of three NCAA Division I teams with an undefeated record. The other two were Louisville and N.C. State. Frost was surprised when she noticed Ohio took down top-notch MAC opponent Buffalo, 74-71, in overtime just four days ago.

Even though Frost was shocked at Ohio's early-season success, she remained fearless, and senior guard Presley Hudson followed suit.

"They have a lot of chemistry between them," Guevara said. "They look for each other and know when the other is in trouble. They bail each other out."

Sophomore guard Cierra Hooks trimmed CMU's edge to 13 points in the fourth quarter on a fast break layup as a product of a forced turnover, but Hudson made the Bobcats pay on the ensuing possession.

After a missed jumper by Frost, sophomore forward Kyra Bussell pulled down an offensive rebound but was unable to convert her shot attempt. Bussell grabbed her own rebound and kicked it out to Hudson, who executed a 3-pointer for a 76-60 edge with 5:11 remaining in the game.

Hooks is the star player for the Bobcats, and Guevara said Ohio coach Bob Boldon uses her in a drive and attack role. The Chippewas held her to 15 points, forcing her to miss every 3-point attempt.

"We wanted her to take threes, that's what we wanted, and she's 0-for-3," Guevara said. "She's a big part of their offense, and we did a good job of clogging up the paint."

Hudson's triple to put CMU ahead by 16 points was just one of many examples of the Chippewas earning second-chance opportunities. In the offensive rebounding category, CMU had 14 while Ohio maintained just six. Guevara's group managed to outrebound the Bobcats, 51-22.

"When they were taking shots, with a team like that, we did a good job of keeping them on our backs," Guevara added.

Of her 24 points, Hudson dropped 15 in the second half. Even more impressive than her point total was her ability to rebound as a 5-foot-6 guard. The three starting guards, Hudson, sophomore Micaela Kelly and sophomore Maddy Watters, ripped down a combined 15 boards, dishing out 15 assists in the process.

Freshman starting center Jahari Smith scored six of the first 11 points for the Chippewas, playing a colossal role in CMU's early push. In what Guevara called a recovery game for the freshman, Smith finished with 10 points and four rebounds on 5-of-5 shooting from the field.

Prior to taking on Ohio, Guevara said Watters got a stomachache. She toughed it out, pouring in 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes.

"She's not feeling good," Guevara said. "We don't know, maybe she got a little touch of food poising before we came down, but I thought she played her heart out."

Next up for the Chippewas is a 2 p.m. Jan. 12 battle against Northern Illinois at NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb, Illinois.