Heather Oesterle and Central Michigan return home, secure 10th win
The first home game in a month for the Central Michigan women’s basketball team became the Micaela Kelly show in the second quarter.
Kelly, a junior guard, continued her powerful streak as she led all scorers with 29 points to go along with seven rebounds in a 76-70 victory over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday in McGuirk Arena.
“I was just really proud of the way we came back in that game,” coach Heather Oesterle said. “It was definitely a game of runs, that’s a very good Miami team that we just beat.”
With the win over the RedHawks (8-7, 1-2 Mid-American Conference), the Chippewas (10-4, 3-0 MAC) remain undefeated in the conference and atop the conference standings.
After a slow start to the game, the Chippewas turned things around in the second quarter spurred by a solid team defensive effort and an incredible showing by Kelly.
Kelly scored 10 straight points for the Chippewas to end the quarter and give CMU a 42-37 at the halftime break.
The second half was another battle as both teams fought to earn the victory, but the Chippewas came out on top thanks in part to a few key plays by senior Gabi Bird.
Bird finished the game with 16 points, including a 3-point field goal late in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach for the RedHawks.
”For us to have performances out of a lot of our players,” Oesterle said. “Gabi hit another huge shot in the game and Twin (Kelly) is Twin, she’s playing really well and we’re getting contributions from a lot of different people right now.”
Sophomore center Jahari Smith played well in the game securing eight rebounds and scoring eight points as well as being a key cog in the defensive operation of the team.
Here are three key observations from Central Michigan's win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.
Rebounding the difference
Rebounds have been a talking point for Oesterle all season, it is no coincidence that the Chippewas earned a victory as they outrebounded the RedHawks, 43-31.
One point, in particular, was the job that the guards did of rebounding the ball, freshman Molly Davis had four rebounds and added eight points and junior guard Maddy Watters tied for the team lead in rebounds with eight along with her five points.
Micaela Kelly catalyst in win
While Kelly had a strong performance as a whole, she made several key plays and stepped up in moments when the team needed her. Without her taking over in those critical moments of the second quarter, the outcome could have been much different.
Kelly’s performance this season has been on a different level and she’s receiving the recognition for it by being named MAC West Player of the Week four consecutive weeks and gaining national recognition as she currently sits No.2 in the NCAA in scoring.
"It does have a lot to do with my confidence and me saying, 'This person can't guard me,'" Kelly said. "I do have to be cocky at times. I have to respect my own game in order for me to trust in my own game. "It's a blessing. Without God and teammates, it wouldn't happen. Thankful for the confidence that they've given me."
Race for MAC title already on
Miami is one of the better teams in the conference and before Saturday's game sat third in the MAC East.
While the score may not reflect a runaway, the Chippewas had the game all but sealed by Bird's second 3-pointer. Yet, this wasn’t one of CMU's strongest games, the team secured the victory in a game that was dominated by streaks.
The Chippewas were able to survive the punches being thrown by Miami’s offense and strike back with more force.
Taking down Miami in the fashion CMU did so, by handling a run with an even bigger run, the Chippewas appear to be hitting their stride.
“We’ve gotten out to a great start,” Oesterle said. “The goal is to get better every day and I think we are doing that right now.”