Jahari Smith, Maddy Watters contribute little things in big ways in CMU's win over Toledo


Central Michigan center Jahari Smith rebounds the ball against Toledo Jan. 25 at McGuirk Arena.

In the box score, it's simply a made field goal. It's an addition to a stat line that seems unspectacular at first glance: 2-of-4 shooting for 4 points. 

However, the layup from junior guard Maddy Watters with 1:03 remaining sealed the game in favor of Central Michigan. It was much more than just a simple made field goal. 

"Maddy Watters had the shot of the game," Chippewa coach Heather Oesterle said. 

The play was designed to go to Watters, using a pick-and-pop action between freshman guard Molly Davis and junior forward Kyra Bussell to draw defenders away from Watters. The action worked, and Watters drove to the basket. A last-ditch effort from a Toledo defender knocked Watters to the ground and the ball rolled around the rim before falling through the net. 

The bucket put CMU up, 69-63. Despite missing the ensuing free throw, Watters put her team in a position to close out the game with free throws, which it would do moments later. 

Watters scored each of her four points in the final quarter of the Chippewas' 73-66 win over the Rockets on Saturday in McGuirk Arena, providing another scoring option within an offense that struggled to get going for much of the afternoon against the Mid-American Conference's second-best scoring defense. 

Though Watters has been quiet offensively for a portion of the season, she continues to contribute in ways that go beyond the box score such as physical defense. She also provides energy and leadership that her teammates feed off. 

"Maddy brings energy," junior guard Micaela Kelly said. "When she's not shooting, she's shown she has the ability to attack (over) the last few games. Once Maddy gets rolling, she gets rolling."

In a similar fashion, sophomore center Jahari Smith continues to provide a presence in the paint. Though a recent emergence from senior forward Gabi Bird has caused Smith's minutes to dip, she remains physical in the paint and makes an impact on the glass. 

Against Toledo, she pulled down 10 rebounds. In addition to that, she scored eight points working on pick-and-roll situations with Kelly and Davis. Of her 10 boards, six came on the offensive glass. Due in part to her efforts, the Chippewas were able to win the battle of the boards, outrebounding the Rockets 43-41 overall and 16-13 on the offensive glass. 

"I don't think we're clicking on all cylinders yet, but we're learning how to win games when we're not," Oesterle said. "We're just going to keep getting better and better." 

Watters and Smith each bring elements to the Chippewa rotation that make their squad a force in the MAC. Each possesses a legitimate scoring ability, Watters with her outside shot and Smith with her inside game, however their ability to make a difference without lighting up the scoreboard is what elevates their team amongst their MAC counterparts.