How Buffalo stopped Presley Hudson to finally defeat Chippewas
The confetti fell from the rafters as Central Michigan was crowned champions of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Sue Guevara cut down the net and swung it in circles. The Chippewas were finally champs, securing an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
On the other end was Buffalo, led by coach Felisha Legette-Jack and star senior guard Cierra Dillard. Their heads were down after losing the most important battle of the season to the Chippewas.
That was last year, and this time around happened to be much different.
Including the championship win back in 2018, the Chippewas have nabbed three-straight from the Bulls. In the 2019 MAC Tournament semifinals, it was No. 1 Central Michigan against No. 4 Buffalo, yet another date between two growing rivals.
The Chippewas (25-7) went on a 20-3 run late in the game to etch out a lead, but the Bulls (22-9) countered down the stretch to secure an 82-77 victory and advance to the MAC Tournament championship against Ohio.
Senior guard Presley Hudson's effectiveness, or lack thereof, made the difference.
Prior to the game, Legette-Jack spoke with Joanne McCallie, the coach of Duke women's basketball. It was at that moment she understood the formula to beat Hudson and the Chippewas.
"We can't stop her," Legette-Jack said over the phone to McCallie.
"You've got to disrupt her," McCallie responded. "She's going to score, but you've got to disrupt her."
Just like that, Legette-Jack had her game plan. Junior guard Theresa Onwuka and senior guard Autumn Jones were tasked with disrupting Hudson, and the pair did just that on March 15 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
At the end of the first quarter, Central Michigan held a one-point lead, 14-13. Hudson was scoreless, shooting 0-for-5 from the field. Four misses were from downtown.
Hudson finally got on the scoreboard with two free throws and a 3-point basket in the second quarter, but that was all from the 5-foot-6 guard from Wayland. Through 20 minutes of play, Onwuka and Jones were successful.
"They did a tremendous job of disrupting her," Legette-Jack said. "She is special."
Even with a 29-28 halftime lead for the Chippewas, Hudson was clearly frustrated. Of 10 attempts, she only made one shot.
"I mean, it was a good defensive effort, but I had open shots," Hudson said. "There were some times where I had no one around me, and I just couldn't make open shots."
It was in the third quarter, just moments removed from a locker room chat, that the Bulls ignited on offense.
In the third quarter alone, Dillard and junior forward Summer Hemphill combined for 24 of Buffalo's 34 points. Hudson scored two points, as Legette-Jack's group took a commanding 62-53 edge into the final 10 minutes of play.
It felt like only moments had passed, but in reality, the Chippewas climbed back for a 68-64 lead after back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore guard Micaela Kelly and Hudson.
But that was the last time Hudson found the bottom of the net.
"You can't stop a young lady that is as special as her, and I hope she looks to play at the next level because I know she can play at the next level," Legette-Jack said. "I just thought we really had to concentrate on her."
Throughout the 2018-19 regular season, Central Michigan took both games against Buffalo. Hudson had 21 points in the first meeting, and she traumatized the opposition with 28 in the next war.
But through the play of Onwuka, Jones and others on Buffalo's team, Hudson was finally shut down and the Bulls managed to sneak past the reigning MAC Tournament champions.
"We had to figure out how to disrupt Presley, and I thought it took a collective group to do that."
Last year, the Chippewas were watching the confetti fall from the sky. Now, after slowing down Hudson, it's Buffalo's time to shine.