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In battle of MAC's best, CMU holds off Ohio 90-87


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Redshirt junior Kalle Martinez points to a teammate during Central Michigan's game at Michigan State Dec. 18 at the Breslin Center.

Like two heavyweight fighters, Central Michigan and Ohio took center stage on the second day of the new year and proved why they belong at the top of the Mid-American Conference. There were punches and counterpunches, with both teams putting together double digit scoring runs while holding their opponents scoreless for long stretches. 

Regardless of what happened, the opponent always had the answer. 

Ultimately, the two battled until the final count and neither team could deliver the knockout blow. CMU took a four point lead with 21 seconds remaining, but Ohio scored and then stole the ensuing inbounds pass. After a foul, Bobcat forward Gabi Burris split a pair of free throws. Senior guard Micaela Kelly scored a transition layup, and a heave at the buzzer fell short for Ohio. 

Thanks to that late effort, it was the Chippewas who remained standing at the end of the fight. CMU knocked off the Bobcats, 90-87, at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio, to remain unbeaten in MAC play. 

"I was proud of the way we battled," coach Heather Oesterle said. 

Senior guard Maddy Watters hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Davis hit three free throws with one second left in the quarter to give CMU a 24-17 advantage after one quarter. The Bobcats took 13 first quarter 3's, knocking down only two of them. 

The Bobcats, led by senior guard Cece Hooks, opened the second quarter on a 11-0 run to take a 28-24 lead. Davis stopped a scoring drought of nearly four minutes with a 3-point play, then nailed a triple to give the Chippewas a two-point advantage. 

Ohio wasn't done, however. Hooks kicked off a 12-0 run with a layup, and the Bobcat defense held the Chippewa offense scoreless for nearly five minutes while forwards Peyton Guice and Gabi Burris worked inside against a Chippewa front court without starter Kyra Bussell.

Bobcat redshirt junior guard Erica Johnson knocked down a triple to push her team's lead to double figures, though Watters quickly responded with one of her own. The Chippewas would get another bucket from Smith, but Johnson hit a heave from just inside half court to put her team up eight, 43-35, after the first 20 minutes. 

"Ohio went on their run, we went on our run," Oesterle said. "I knew it wasn't going to be won in the first or second quarter because both teams can score." 

CMU opened the second half with life. Kelly, who was held scoreless in the second quarter, scored on a transition layup and hit a 3-pointer. Weekes converted a three-point play and Davis knocked down a three as well, but Ohio kept the Chippewas at bay for a majority of the quarter. 

However, the tide turned quickly. 

Down 57-50, Davis knocked down a 3-pointer. Redshirt junior Kalle Martinez took over after that, scoring a career-high nine points on three 3-pointers in a two-minute span to give the Chippewas their largest lead of the day at 64-57. 

"How about Kalle Martinez," Oesterle said. "She comes in, guards their best player, we were face guarding her at that time, and she hits three huge threes." 

The Bobcats responded late in the third and into the fourth, opening the final quarter on a 10-2 run to retake the lead, 70-66. 

The two teams traded blows for the remainder of the afternoon. A 3-pointer by Watters was answered by a layup by Hooks. Smith scored around the rim, and once again Hooks answered. A 3-pointer from Kelly put the Chippewas up three, 85-82, but Madi Mace answered with a layup for the Bobcats. 

Watters snagged Kelly's missed free throw and passed to Davis, who would be fouled and hit two freebies to give CMU a 88-84 cushion with 21 seconds remaining. Mace stole the inbounds after a Hooks layup, and Burris was fouled after a timeout. 

However, Burris missed her first free throw and, after making the second, the Ohio defense left Kelly open for a streaking layup that would serve as the dagger. 

Kelly led the Chippewas with 28 points, while Davis notched her third career double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Watters also notched a season-high with 17 points while Smith finished with eight points and 12 rebounds. 

Hooks led the Bobcats with 22 points, while Johnson chipped in 21. Mace finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. 

The Chippewas (5-2, 3-0) return to action at 2 p.m. Jan. 6 at home against Akron.

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