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Women's hoops opens MAC, home schedule against rival Broncos


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(From left to right) Central Michigan forward Kyra Bussell, forward Gabrielle Bird and guard Micaela Kelly celebrate from the bench against Iona Dec. 5 at McGuirk Arena.

For the first time in over nine months, Central Michigan Women’s basketball will be played in McGuirk Arena. 

The Chippewas (0-1) host their home and Mid-American Conference opener at 2 p.m. Wednesday against archrival Western Michigan (1-0). The Chippewas last played November 25th, a 93-74 road loss to No. 25 Michigan. The Broncos defeated UIC 80-76 in Kalamazoo on Saturday.

CMU enters Wednesday’s contest winning 18 of the last 21 games between WMU and have won the last six games in the series. The Broncos last won in McGuirk Arena during the 2003-04 season. 

Wednesday’s game was originally scheduled for Feb. 20 but was changed during the MAC’s schedule modifications announced Dec. 4. 

CHECKING OUT THE CHIPPEWAS

CMU returns its entire starting lineup from the 2019-20 campaign and was picked to win the MAC in the preseason polls. 

Senior guard Michaela Kelly, the reigning Mid-American Conference player of the year, averaged 21.5 points per contest and was named to the Nancy Lieberman Award Watch List -- which is given to the nation’s top point guard -- and ranked 23rd on ESPN’s list of the nation’s top 25 players. The Detroit native finished with 30 points while making 11-of-22 shots in CMU’s season-opener in Ann Arbor last month. 

Senior guard Maddy Watters and junior center Jahari Smith each enter their third season in the lineup. Watters, who sat out the season opener against the Wolverines, averaged only 7.6 points per game last season despite making 39 percent of her attempts behind the arc. Smith led the team with 54.1 field goal percentage and averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game last season.

Senior Kyra Bussell and sophomore guard Molly Davis begin their second season starting for CMU. Bussell averaged 14.2 points and seven rebounds per contest while earing Third Team All-MAC honors last season. During her first year removed from Dow High School, Davis finished second on the team in points per game (14.3) and 3-pointers made (60) while leading the Chippewas shooting 39.5 percent from beyond the arc.

The Chippewas are also chasing their fifth-straight MAC championship and a fourth-straight NCAA Tournament berth under second-year coach Heather Oesterle. CMU finished the 2019-20 season 23-7 overall (16-2 MAC) and fell 78-71 to Toledo in the MAC Tournament before the remainder of the postseason was suspended due to COVID-19.

CMU was also picked to win the conference in the MAC-preseason poll. 

SCOUTING THE BRONCOS

WMU finished 18-13 overall (10-8 MAC) last season en route to the MAC Championship quarterfinals appearance, losing 84-75 to Ohio. 

The Broncos were picked to finish last in the MAC’s preseason poll. The Broncos have seven players returning from last year's squad while welcoming five newcomers.  

Junior forward Reilly Jacobson is WMU’s highest returning scorer after averaging 6.0 points per game last season. Jacobson also averaged 3.5 rebounds and shot 46.7 percent from the floor.

The Broncos top-five scorers from last season did not return for the 2020-21 season. The five departing players averaged 57 of WMU’s 70 points per game in 2019-20. 

Freshman Lauren Ross, making her second collegiate start Wednesday, was named First Team All-State by the Detroit Free Press, Associated Press and Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan during her senior season at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer, averaging  26.6 points per game to go along with 9.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 4.5 steals per game. Ross finished with 10 points in 28 minutes against UIC. 

DOWN THE ROAD

CMU  continues its three-game homestand as it hosts Cincinnati Saturday, Dec. 12 and resumes conference action Dec. 15 against Miami (Ohio). 

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