Grind it out: Chippewa women squeak by rival WMU
Heather Oesterle has repeatedly said she wants her team to start well in the first quarter, and let it continue through the rest of the game.
While it was not what the second-year coach for CMU's women's basketball team was looking for, the Chippewas got the job done.
CMU fell behind by as many as eight in the first quarter but found a way to widdle Western Michigan's lead down slowly and ultimately take a 74-71 win over the Broncos on Saturday at Read Fieldhouse in Mid-American Conference action.
Even playing without senior forward Kyra Bussell due to injury, the Chippewas (11-6, 9-4 MAC) were able to battle back and fend off the Broncos (2-12, 1-11) to sweep the season series after a 82-71 win on Dec. 9 in McGuirk Arena.
"I was proud of the way we battled back," Oesterle said. "We won the last three quarters, but it wasn't pretty."
WMU built up a lead in the first quarter after CMU committed seven turnovers in the opening 10 minutes and 11 total in the first half.
In the second, CMU found a way to tie the score at 26 after a 7-0 run. WMU then sparked a 7-0 run of its own to take a 33-26 lead. After the run, the teams traded points -- CMU was led by senior guard Micaela "Twin" Kelly -- and WMU took a 38-35 lead to the break.
Out of the break, WMU sprinted out with an 8-0 run to swell the lead to 11. However, sophomore guard Molly Davis hit back-to-back triples to to bolster an 8-0 run for CMU.
"Molly is clutch," Oesterle said. "She's a gamer, she's the most competitive kid I've been around. ... Twin got us some runout layups, which gave us some energy. Going forward, I need to get some other kids going."
With 35 seconds left in the quarter, Kelly drove through the Bronco defense to a make while drawing a foul and converting a free throw, giving CMU its first lead at 60-58. That score would hold to end the third quarter.
WMU found a way to open a 6-0 run in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, led by a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Sydney Shafer.
The Chippewas held the Broncos without a field goal over the last 5:21 and went on a 7-0 run of their own over the last 1:04. Junior forward Jahari Smith took a pass from Kelly and put in the game-winning layup with 32 seconds left.
Davis came up clutch for the Chippewas with free throws in the final seconds to take a three-point lead. She had five points in the first half and she finished with a game-high 27 points, including going 5-of-6 from 3-point range. She also finished 8-of-10 from the free throw line.
Kelly finished with 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-5 from the line. She missed all six of her 3-point shots.
While the contributions from Kelly and Davis pushed the Chippewas over the finish line, Oesterle said she needs to find a way to get more offense from others.
"We just have to work on getting contributions from other people other than just molly and Twin," Oesterle said. "That'll have to change to go beat Miami, we have to get more contributions."
Smith finished the game with 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting and made all four free throws she took.
For WMU, Shafer and senior forward Reilly Jacobson each finished with 19 points. Redshirt freshman forward Taylor Williams had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
As a team, CMU shot 44.6 percent (25-56) from the field and 34.8 percent (8-23) from 3-point range. The Chippewas also shot 80 percent (16-20) from the free throw line.
WMU shot 43.4 (23-53) from the floor and 40 percent (10-25) from beyond the arc. The Broncos shot just 68.2 percent (15-22) from the line.
The Chippewas outrebounded the Broncos 39-27 and won the battle in the paint 32-22.
CMU had 20 turnovers, WMU had 19, and the Broncos outscored the Chippewas 26-22 off those turnovers.
CMU is set to face Miami at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Millett Hall in Oxford, Ohio. CMU took down the RedHawks 69-51 on Dec. 15 in McGuirk Arena.
TEAM -- MAC, OVERALL
Kent State -- 5-1, 6-3
Bowling Green -- 10-3, 14-4
Buffalo -- 7-3, 9-5
Ball State -- 7-3, 9-5
Northern Illinois -- 7-3, 9-6
Central Michigan -- 9-4, 11-6
Ohio -- 8-5, 9-6
Eastern Michigan 6-4, 9-6
Toledo -- 4-7, 8-7
Akron -- 1-10, 4-10
Western Michigan -- 1-11, 2-12
Miami -- 1-12, 2-15