Women's basketball eliminated from MAC Tournament with loss to Buffalo
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Reyna Frost walked into the media room in Quicken Loans Arena with a stern look, almost angry.
The senior forward then fielded questions from the media after the top-seeded Central Michigan women's basketball team was eliminated from the Mid-American Conference Tournament by the No. 4 seed Buffalo, 82-77.
She said that it was a physical game and that the Bulls (22-9) were able to control to boards and that was what led them to victory.
"It was a good battle and we were struggling in the post on our end," Frost said. "We lost the rebounding battle so that's an important part of it, too. Give credit to Buffalo for that."
The defending tournament champion Chippewas (25-7) reached the semifinal for the third out of the last four years but were unable to advance past the hot-shooting Bulls.
Head coach Sue Guevara said that free throw shooting was the most important facet of this game. Buffalo's senior guard Cierra Dillard had more trips to the free throw line than the Chippewas did combined.
"When one player takes more free throws than my entire team," Guevara said. "That's good, and she made her free throws."
How it happened
Adebola Adeyeye opened the scoring just 22 seconds in with a layup to give Buffalo the first lead of the game.
Frost tied the scoring soon after with a drive and a layup of her own.
In a physical and defensive first quarter, the Chippewas were the beneficiaries of a 10-2 run that lasted three-and-a-half minutes that was capped off by a layup from sophomore guard Maddy Watters. She fought through contact from two different Bulls defenders to earn the bucket. She also hit a triple in the first quarter to give her 10 points through minutes.
Buffalo had their turn to make a run, a 7-2 scoring surge that featured three layups and a free throw. It lasted another three-and-a-half minutes and cut the CMU lead down to one point at the end of the first quarter.
The Chippewas carried a 14-13 lead into the second quarter but the Bulls seemed to carry the momentum.
CMU seemingly crushed that momentum quickly as Hudson scored her only triple of the first half to open the second quarter. Watters hit another one on the next CMU possession to begin the scoring battle that would be the second quarter.
Buffalo would go on a 9-2 extended scoring run, against facilitated by layups but the Bulls were able to find a jump shot over the course of the run that lasted over four minutes.
The Bulls regained the lead at 25-24 on a layup from Theresa Onwuka layup that capped the run. They would extend their lead by as many as three points in the first 20 minutes.
Hudson knocked in free throws to end the first half with five points and the Chippewas carried the slimmest of margins to the intermission, they led 29-28.
Buffalo came out of the gate in the second half strong as Summer Hemphill knocked in a layup to give her Bulls a quick lead.
That stampede for the Bulls would continue as they built on that lead throughout the quarter.
However Watters was having none of it, she hit a triple from the right corner to tie the game at 41 points apiece.
After that make, the Bulls went on a 12-2 run to take a double digit lead, and they were able to push that lead to as many as 14 points with just over a minute to play in the third quarter on a Dillard conversion of an old-fashioned 3-point play.
Any basketball fan will understand, the game is dictated by scoring runs.
The "big three" of Frost, Hudson and Kelly led the charge for the Chippewas for a 15-2 run that covered almost four minutes. Kelly and Hudson capped off the run with back-to-back triples that forced a Buffalo timeout with just under six minutes to play in the game.
Frost and Kelly finished with 21 points each, Frost with her 29th double-double of the season as she had 13 rebounds. Hudson finished with 10 points on 20 percent shooting from long range and Watters had 15 points.
Freshman guard Anika Weekes was a wild card that head coach Sue Guevara was able to play in the second half. Weekes came in place of Watters who had accumulated four fouls.
She showed glimpses of her potential greatness as she scraped for three rebounds. The biggest play she made was a steal and a half-court bounce pass to find Kelly for a fast break layup. She added a game-changing 3-pointer from the right corner.
The game was far from over.
Dillard put her team on her back by making free throws and momentum swinging jump shots, including a triple from the left wing to regain the Buffalo lead at 71-70.
She later connected on an old-fashioned 3-point play with just over two minutes to play. Dillard finished the game by leading all scorers with 30 points.
Buffalo had an ace in their back pocket with Hanna Hall. She scored 10 points and made just two triples. But ones she made were imperative because they cut down CMU runs and put the game back into their favor. The most influential triple she made was from the right wing with 1:33 to play. It gave the Bulls the lead for good.
Hemphill added 24 points and Onwuka added 10 points of her own to lead the Bulls.
Following elimination from the MAC Tournament, the Chippewas will have to await their postseason on March 18. There is a potential they will earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament but it is not guaranteed.
CMU is currently projected to earn a No. 7 seed, according to ESPN W.