Women's basketball folds in final minute, bounced from MAC Tournament by Western Michigan
The Chippewas will likely play in the Women's National Invitational Tournament
It was Deja vu for the Central Michigan women's basketball team Wednesday – and not in a good way.
The Chippewas led Western Michigan 63-62 with 21 seconds left, but two turnovers and a WMU 3-pointer with 11 seconds to play gave the Broncos a 67-63 win, knocking CMU out of the Mid-American Conference Tournament in the quarterfinals.
Last season the Chippewas were defeated by Buffalo 73-71 in overtime after Stephanie Reid hit a jumpshot at the buzzer to win the MAC Tournament title.
This time around it was WMU's Najee Smith who crushed CMU's dreams with a long 3-pointer at the top of the key. The Broncos snapped a five-game losing streak to the Chippewas and advanced to take on the winner of No. 4 Northern Illinois and No. 5 Ohio in Friday's semifinals.
"It's tough to swallow," said head coach Sue Guevara. "Last year was hard, last year was hard. This year is worse."
Despite her team's short comings down the stretch, Guevara said WMU played well when it mattered most and that was the difference.
"I give Western Michigan a lot of credit," she said. "I thought the last five minutes of the game their defense was the difference and big players make big shots and Smith hit a big fat one."
CMU led 59-50 with four minutes to play, but the Broncos continued to fight and went on a 7-0 run to put the pressure on the Chippewas.
"I could see the look in a couple players' eyes," Guevara said. "We had a nine-point lead with four-something (left to play) I think it was and it was our time to finish it out and we had just turned it over. I saw this look of like a deer in the headlights."
With 21 seconds remaining, CMU struggled to get the ball in bounds and threw it to Hudson, who caught the ball but fell out of bounds giving the Broncos a chance to shock the MAC.
After Smith's 3-pointer gave WMU its first lead of the game, CMU again failed to inbound the ball and turned it over and the Broncos sealed the victory with two free throws with six seconds left. The Broncos outscored CMU 43-30 in the second half.
"It's disappointing for our kids, it's disappointing for our programs, it's disappointing for our conference," Guevara said. "But give Western credit, we did not value the basketball down the stretch. When you turn it over the last four times that you touch it, or six out of eight times, it's maddening is what it is."
CMU shot 32 percent from the field in the second half and went 2-for-9 from the 3-point line. WMU was 52 percent from the field and 5-of-7 from the 3-point line in the final two quarters.
The Chippewas entered the game as the No. 1 seed in the tournament after finishing the regular season as MAC champions with 23-7 overall record and 15-3 in conference play.
Sophomore forward Reyna Frost recorded a double-double scoring 18 points and pulling down 17 rebounds for CMU.
Junior guard Cassie Breen scored 13 points, senior Cotton added 12 points and seven rebounds and junior forward Tinara Moore pitched in with 13 points and six rebounds.
"I think I was disappointed as any other senior would be coming to the MAC tournament," said senior forward Jewel Cotton. "This was a championship game for us as it was all season. So, stopped following through and executing the game plan, yes, that's disappointing, especially since I'm a senior."
The Chippewas opened the game fast with an 11-2 run in the first quarter and shot 46 percent in the first half. CMU led by as many as 13 in the first half and took a 33-24 lead into the break.
The Broncos battled back cutting the deficit to 40-36 in the third quarter. WMU came to within two, 59-57 before Moore made a layup and Frost added two free throws to extend the lead back to six.
Western Michigan outscored the Chippewas 15-0 from the bench.
CMU (23-8, 15-4 MAC) will likely receive and invitation to the Women's National Invitational Tournament. The Chippewas lost to Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis 63-55 in the first round of last season's WNIT. CMU has never won a game in any postseason tournament outside of the MAC Tournament.