Women's basketball dealt first loss of conference season

Micaela Kelly smiles at her teammates at the home basketball game Feb. 26 in McGurk Arena.

For the first time this season, the Central Michigan women's basketball team lost a Mid-American Conference game.

The Chippewas (22-5, 15-1 MAC) were defeated by Ball State (20-8, 12-4 MAC) by a score 67-62 on Saturday in BSU's Worthen Arena. 

CMU had not lost since Dec. 30 in its final nonconference game of the season against Central Florida. 

Additionally, the Chippewas are ranked sixth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 and had an RPI of 15, the best in the MAC. Ball State ranked third in the MAC with a 67 RPI. 

The Cardinals' offense was more effective at home against the Chippewas than the previous meeting earlier this season in McGuirk Arena, when the Chippewas held Ball State to its season-low in a 66-39 victory.

The win eliminated the possibility of CMU becoming the first team since Bowling Green in 2005-06 to go undefeated in the MAC regular-season slate. 

However, the loss doesn't hurt the Chippewas in the standings because the team clinched the No.1-overall seed in the conference tournament and the regular-season conference championship in their win over Western Michigan on Wednesday.

For the Cardinals, the win secures a first-round bye in the conference tournament and places them in the driver seat for the No. 2 seed behind CMU.

CMU was led by junior guard Micaela Kelly, who had 17 points and six rebounds. Overall, it was a poor shooting performance for the Chippewas, who shot 33 percent from the field and just 22 percent on 37 attempts from 3-point range. The Chippewas were unable to overcome a first quarter where they were held to just six points. 

Despite the loss, CMU coach Heather Oesterle said she still likes her team's chances going forward beyond its first loss in two months. 

"I never felt like we were complacent," Oesterle said. "We approached every game the same way. The goal is still ultimately to get to the NCAA Tournament. We've positioned ourselves in a good spot.

The only other Chippewas to finish with double digits in scoring were freshman guard Molly Davis, who had 14 points, and senior forward Gabi Bird who had 10 points. 

Sydney Freeman led the Cardinals with 18 points. Oshlynn Brown added 17 and Thelma Dis Agustsdottir added 13 to round out the Cardinals' double-digit scorers. 

The loss comes with only two more games to play, the first a trip to Toledo. The Rockets (11-16, 6-10 MAC) put up a fight in their first matchup with CMU but ultimately fell to the Chippewas behind a career-performance from Davis. 

Following that game, CMU returns home for the final regular-season game against Eastern Michigan (14-13, 9-7 MAC). The Chippewas will celebrate senior day against the Eagles and hope to earn a win as a stepping stone into the MAC Tournament the following week.