Sue Guevara, Felisha Legette-Jack continue to build upon recent CMU-Buffalo rivalry
Two of the last three Mid-American Conference title games featured Central Michigan and Buffalo.
The Chippewas and Bulls have duked it out eight times since the 2015-16 season – four wins for CMU, four for Buffalo. Tensions always run high. The games are usually close.
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For CMU coach Sue Guevara and Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack, they are vast competitors on the court but close friends once the final buzzer sounds. However, these battles between the two have become a rivalry over recent seasons.
"I have a lot of respect for how they play," Guevara said. "I respect Felisha, she's a friend of mine. You just know you're getting a physical, bruising game."
"Sue is a true testament to what coaching should be like," she said. "She's somebody we look up to. I'm humbled that she looks at me as a good person and a friend of hers. The best way to respect her is to give her a good game."
In the 2018 MAC Tournament championship at Quicken Loans Arena on March 10, CMU earned a hard-pressed 96-91 win against Buffalo to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulls, with an at-large bid, made a push to the Sweet 16.
The Chippewas did the same.
When Guevara and Legette-Jack shook hands at the end of the MAC Tournament, they kept it professional by wishing each other the best of luck and catching up through family updates.
Following a 76-65 victory for the Chippewas over Buffalo on Feb. 2 at McGuirk Arena, Legette-Jack was disappointed in her team's inability to respect Guevara by giving her a quality game.
Nonetheless, to fully understand what it's like to game plan for Guevara and Co., there's no one better to ask than Legette-Jack. She's done it since 2012.
With 2:07 remaining in the first quarter, CMU senior guard Presley Hudson put a shimmy shake on her defender, threw a no-look pass to fellow senior Reyna Frost. The result was an and-one layup to give the Chippewas a 22-7 edge.
Each time Legette-Jack's prepares her team for the combination of senior stardom in Hudson and Frost, she thinks long and hard about how to execute. Sometimes, there isn't a textbook answer.
But anything is possible.
"They're still human beings," Legette-Jack said. "In order to play against those ladies, you can't take a possession off. We just have to game plan and hope people show up to do what I'm asking them to do."
CMU's lead was cut to 26-14 by the end of the quarter, and it was just 39-37 at halftime.
With 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Hudson stroked a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Out earlier in the game with a minor injury, the guard's return was the catalyst for a fourth quarter push to a win.
Frost finished with 28 points and 21 rebounds. Hudson added 21 points.
However, one can't possibly forget Cierra Dillard, a 5-foot-9 senior guard for Buffalo. She buried 25 points on 6-of-11 shooting from 3-point range, going toe-to-toe with Hudson and Frost.
And the only way to truly understand how to slow down Dillard and the Bulls is to ask Guevara, CMU's coach of 12 years.
All four of Dillard's first half 3-pointers were in transition. At halftime, Guevara made it a point to adjust.
"We had to close the distance and do a better job of talking in transition to know where she was," Guevara said.
Throughout the 11-point loss, Legette-Jack said a point of emphasis going forward is to give Dillard help on the offensive end. When Dillard was unable to get a shot off, her teammates just stood around waiting for something to happen, Legette-Jack explained.
"I've got so many young kids," Legette-Jack said. "It's an opportunity to get better, keep learning and growing. One thing about Central Michigan, all players play their roles. Our kids stood and watched."
Even though Guevara got the best of Legette-Jack this time around, the pair of top-notch MAC coaches meet again at 2 p.m. on Feb. 16.
The rematch takes place in Amherst, New York at Alumni Arena – 400 miles away from Mount Pleasant.
"We bring out the best in them and they bring out the best in us," Hudson said. "Two of the best teams going at it."