To the Title: Chippewas roll past Eastern Michigan, will play in MAC Tournament Championship on Saturday
CLEVELAND — A 13-point first-half deficit was no match for the Central Michigan women’s basketball team, Friday.
The Chippewas outscored Eastern Michigan 32-17 in the third quarter and rolled to an 86-71 victory in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Semifinal. No. 2 CMU will vie for it’s fourth MAC Tournament Championship against No. 8 Buffalo at 1 p.m. Saturday.
CMU overcame a 15-point deficit to beat Western Michigan in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, we've been put in this position a lot,” said junior forward Jewel Cotton. “We know one possession at a time, we can get it back. We can definitely come back regardless of what the score is, as you can see if you follow us.”
CMU is 6-0 this season against Eastern and Western Michigan. The Chippewas were tied or trailing at halftime in five of the six games.
The Chippewas’ 22 wins is the most in a single season in Head Coach Sue Guevara’s nine years at CMU and the second-most in CMU program history.
Guevara challenged Cotton to attack and take rebounds after the Harper Woods native had zero first-half rebounds. She had 14 boards in the second half.
“I know I'm going to sound like a broken record, but this team, they're coachable,” Guevara said. “I can't say that sometimes the best players that we had in the past, you know, were like this and totally bought in.”
CMU outrebounded EMU 41-29, despite having freshman forward Reyna Frost for only seven minutes, Friday. Guevara said Frost sprained her ankle on Wednesday and didn’t think she was moving too well Friday.
She played seven minutes, had one rebound and zero points. Guevara said she expects Frost to play in the championship game.
“Our trainer's going to be working with her again,” Guevara said. “Hopefully we'll have her for more than seven minutes tomorrow because Buffalo is big and we're going to need her size.”
Five players spent 32 or more minutes on the court, including 39 minutes for sophomore guard Cassie Breen and sophomore forward Tinara Moore. Freshman guard Presley Hudson played all 40 minutes.
All three scored 19 points or more, combining for 64 points and 15 rebounds.
“No one's going to be tired,” Guevara said. “The adrenaline is going to go for 40 or 45 minutes because it's the Championship game. There's no room for tired.”
Preparing for Buffalo
The eighth-seeded Bulls beat CMU 67-61 on Jan. 6 in Buffalo in the only meeting between the two teams this season. Buffalo is 4-0 against the top two teams in the MAC — CMU and Ohio.
All three of top-seeded Ohio’s losses in conference play this year came to Buffalo, including Buffalo’s 72-60 upset in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Buffalo beat No. 5 Akron 88-87 on Friday.
Moore said CMU looks a lot different than it did Jan. 6.
“I think we're more of an attacking team than we were in the beginning of the season,” she said. “It is a little bit of a revenge. And what's a better revenge than to have it as a championship game?”
The only two meetings between Buffalo and CMU in the MAC Tournament came in first rounds in 2003 and 2011, with each team winning once.
CMU finished last in the MAC West last season and were predicted to finish fifth out of sixth in the division this season. Guevara called her team a “special group.”
"I just didn't know in my wildest dreams that we were going to be where we are tomorrow, but they just keep playing,” Guevara said. “They love the university, they love wearing Chippewas across their front, and that's what they play for. There's no names on the back of our uniforms, they play for the front. That's what's really special about them.”