Memorable March: Chippewas season comes to end in NCAA First Round
SAN ANTONIO, Tx. -- Micaela Kelly has been the catalyst of Central Michigan's women's basketball team for the last two seasons.
Her driving ability, passing prowess and shooting skills have made the Detroit senior guard one of the best offensive players in Chippewa history.
However, Kelly was forced to watch most of the first half against Iowa as she had three personal fouls called against her in the first quarter.
"It was frustrating, obviously," Kelly said. "But I can't control the uncontrolables so I had to find a way to stay positive and start cheering for my teammates. I didn't sit down, so I started cheering to try and motivate them.
"While I'm not out there, I can still be present and bring some type of energy off the bench."
Iowa was able to build momentum throughout Sunday's River Walk Region opener in the NCAA Tournament and pull away.
The No. 12-seeded Chippewas fell to the No. 5-seeded Hawkeyes 87-72 Sunday in the NCAA Tournament First Round at San Antonio's Alamodome.
CMU (18-9) saw its season come to an end with the loss to the Hawkeyes after winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship and earning a fourth-straight bid to the national tournament.
"I'm very proud of (the team) with everything we've had to go through this year," head coach Heather Oesterle said. "To go on a run at the end of the year, win the MAC Tournament, I'm proud of the seniors and appreciative of everything they've done to get this program where it is today."
CMU started well, jumping out to an early lead in the first quarter and building momentum against a Hawkeye team that was struggling on the offensive end.
Kelly drew two quick fouls, hit the bench, returned, and drew a third foul and cut the momentum CMU had built up.
"I thought that was the difference in the game, to be very honest," Oesterle said. "I try to complain to the officials, but when you take my best player out with three fouls in the first quarter, that obviously affects us."
With Kelly on the bench, the Hawkeyes went on a 10-0 run to jump out to a 16-point lead late in the second quarter. When the Iowa lead swelled to 16 with 2:44 to go in the quarter, Oesterle decided to put Kelly back into the game -- despite the foul trouble.
Kelly promptly knocked down four points in a row and cut the deficit to 11 going into the break. Momentum felt more on CMU's side with Kelly serving as the catalyst. Kelly poured in 14 points in the first 20 minutes.
Early in the second half, with momentum leaning their way, the Chippewas cut down the Iowa lead to six several times throughout the third quarter.
Despite the Chippewas' effort early in the third, a scoring drought lasting the final 4:26 of the frame and a 7-0 Iowa run in the meantime pushed the lead out to 65-52 going into the final quarter.
Iowa jumped out to as big as an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter and pulled away to earn the 15-point victory.
Kelly led the Chippewas with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from long range. Kelly also hit 6-of-7 free throws.
Sophomore guard Molly Davis had 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting from the field but was just 1-of-7 from 3-point range.
Senior forward Kyra Bussell had a team-high nine rebounds. Senior guard Maddy Watters and Davis each had six boards.
Caitlin Clark had 21 points for the Hawkeyes. Monika Czinano had 20 points and the Hawkeyes had a total of four players in double figures.
Iowa had a total of 11 turnovers while the Chippewas had eight.
CMU shot 37 percent from the field and 38 percent from long-range. Meanwhile, Iowa shot 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.
The Hawkeyes dominated the paint, outscoring the Chippewas 36-20 in the key. However, CMU outrebounded the Hawkeyes 37-34 including 11-6 on the offensive end.