Chippewa women snap skid behind career day from Molly Davis, rout Akron 92-69
Molly Davis walked off the court with a smile on her face. As she took in the applause and admiration of her teammates, she likely took a second to reflect on the career-high performance that she had just put the finishing touches on.
Behind Davis' 32 points and a return to the balanced effort that made Central Michigan's women's basketball team dangerous early in the Mid-American Conference portion of the season, CMU routed Akron, 92-69, Saturday afternoon in James A. Rhodes Arena.
CMU cruised to a 32-12 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to solid outside shooting from Davis paired with interior play from junior Jahari Smith. Akron was able to pull within 13 at halftime, but the Chippewas (8-5, 6-3 MAC) were able to distance themselves with a run at the start of the third quarter and pushed their lead to as much as 30 with 3:44 to play in the game.
After mentioning a potential lineup shakeup following a loss to Eastern Michigan on Wednesday, Oesterle stuck with the same five to start against Akron (4-6, 1-6 MAC). However, redshirt sophomore guard Anika Weekes started the second half in place of senior forward Kyra Bussell and played a career-high 30 minutes. Weekes finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
Behind Davis, senior guard Micaela Kelly scored 17 points. Both Davis and Kelly notched six rebounds and six assists. Smith narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Keys to the game
After struggling from beyond the arc for the last three games, the Chippewas started hitting triples early. Davis tied a career-high with six 3-pointers, five of which came in the first half.
Senior guard Maddy Watters hit both of her 3-point attempts and finished with eight points. Though the Zips were unable to keep pace, they did finish with nine 3-point makes, four of which came from Rachel Martindale.
Smith, who has struggled to find offensive consistency throughout the season, scored seven points in the first quarter to set the tone. Two of her nine rebounds came on the offensive end, and she also contributed two assists.
The Chippewas finished 52 percent (36-69) shooting. In the first and fourth quarters, CMU shot above 60 percent. In their second quarter comeback, the Zips finished 60 percent for the quarter.
While CMU only had three players in double figures, coach Heather Oesterle got solid minutes from a variety of players. With Weekes playing a career-high in minutes and setting personal bests in scoring and rebounds, the Chippewas also received quality playing time from redshirt junior guards Kalle Martinez and Sophia Karasinski and freshmen forwards Sydney Graber, Rachel Loobie and Carlee Crabtree, who scored her first points as a Chippewa with a late triple.
Akron was led in scoring by Martindale and Kendall Miller, who had 12 points apiece. Lonasia Brewer finished with 10 points, and Jordyn Dawson led the team in both rebounds and assists with seven and four, respectively.
Coming out of the locker room, Akron wasted no time cutting its deficit to 10 points at 53-43. However, the Chippewas showed no panic, responding with a Davis layup that would turn into a 15-3 run to close the quarter. Akron was held scoreless for four minutes, and Davis knocked down her sixth triple with four seconds remaining in the quarter to give CMU a 22-point advantage going into the fourth.
Over the last three games, the Chippewas have struggled with slow starts and staying close to teams, relying on late rallies to give them a chance. However, they scored the first nine points against the Zips, setting the tone. Watters opened with a layup, then followed a Kelly layup with a 3-pointer. Smith followed that with a layup to cap a 9-0 run three minutes into the game.
Late in the game, Oesterle was able to put in all four of her freshmen. Graber finished with four points while Crabtree had three and Loobie had one. Forward Maryama Turkstra also played two minutes. The development of that quartet will have a large impact on the Chippewas' depth as they progress later into the season.
CMU will remain in Ohio for a showdown with Toledo, which ended the Chippewas 2019-20 season in the first round of the MAC Tournament. The Chippewas and Rockets will play at 5 p.m. inside Savage Arena Wednesday night. Following that, CMU will return home for a showdown with Buffalo at 2 p.m. Saturday.