Late shooting struggles doom women's basketball in loss to Akron


Gen cap: CMU falls to Akron 60-70, Saturday, Jan. 29, in McGuirk Arena. 

Photo cap:Bolingbrook Senior, Jahari Smith, shooting and sinking in for another point against Akron at McGuirk Arena Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. 

After ending its worst losing streak of the season, Central Michigan (4-15, 2-8) women’s basketball looked to improve its record in the Mid-American Conference against Akron (9-6, 6-3) on Saturday. 

Although they shot a season-high 57.1% from three-point land in the first half, the Chippewas went cold down the stretch allowing Akron to secure a 70-60 win in McGuirk Arena.

“I told the team, after the game, ‘I did see some nice things today, (but) we hit a cold streak and we couldn’t recover from it,’” said head coach Heather Oesterle. “Our shots weren’t falling if you look at the third and fourth quarter, we shot 33% and 24%. Against a good team like Akron, we got to be able to hit shots and if we aren’t hitting shots we got to be able to get offensive boards. Right now between (Smith) and (Weekes), we don’t have much else on the boards, so that’s hurting us.” 

Following their win against Ball State, Oesterle made a point of showing her players how important working the ball into the interior was for their overall success. 

“After the Ball State game, I had our staff show the team clips of when we were not getting Jahari the ball, there was probably 10 or 12 clips, and it’s like, ‘look this is important, she’s shooting a good percentage down there, we gotta get her the ball,’” Oesterle said. “That’s been the focus for the whole week, getting her the ball, because good things happen when we get inside-outside looks. We have to get looks in the paint, especially when our three ball isn’t falling.” 

In the first quarter against the Zips, the Chippewas found success working the ball through senior center Jahari Smith, who led the team in scoring for a second-straight game. 

“I think we always try to get it inside out because it simply opens up the floor for us,” Smith said. 

Although the Zips struggled to stop Smith inside early, they found a rhythm behind the arc and forced CMU to respond. 

With junior guard Molly Davis returning, the Chippewas shot 4-for-7 from three-point range through two quarters. However, with the Chippewas struggling on the glass, Akron exited halftime and turned up its defensive pressure. 

As a result, Akron increased its advantage on the glass and continued extending its lead to nine points multiple times in the third quarter. 

“I thought (Davis) was much better moving the ball in the pace of the game,” Oesterle said. “I did go to the four freshmen lineup early in the game, but Miami (OH) and Akron are different teams, to be honest, Akron is tough.” 

Facing a large deficit, CMU continued fighting. However, Smith and Oesterle believe it was a fourth quarter scoreless streak that did the team in. 

“We went on a scoring drought for like three or four minutes, and that’s what hurt us," Smith said. "We couldn’t turn it around after that." 

Tired legs can become a problem when dressing nine players, but Oesterle and her staff have kept that in the front of their minds and adjusted their practice routine. 

“I didn’t think so, (but) I’ll go back and watch the film, probably, a couple of times,” Oesterle said when asked if tired legs are hurting the team’s shooting. “I don’t think the missed shots were because of tired legs. We’ve been saving them in practice. We didn’t practice Thursday. They did a lot of recovery stuff. (Friday) we went an hour and a half, most of that being shooting and going over the game plan. I thought we were pretty fresh coming in.” 

Down the stretch, Smith believes it will fall on the defensive end to turn things around for the Chippewas. 

“I think it’s going to be stepping up on defense,” Smith said. “Defense gets our offense going, so if we’re getting stops, we’re getting points.” 

Carrying the brunt of the load on the interior, Smith recorded 19 points and 12 rebounds, securing her second consecutive double-double and seventh of the season. 

“Honestly, I don’t pay attention to the stat line,” Smith said. “It’s good to hear I’m excited about that, but I try not to pay attention to the stats.” 

Junior forward Anika Weekes finished close behind with eight rebounds and six points. 

Davis notched 16 points, three steals, two rebounds and two assists in her return to the court. Freshman Tiana Timpe made her presence felt on the defensive end, recording two blocks to go along with 13 points. 

The Chippewas are still missing senior guard Kalle Martinez, but Oesterle believes her return is imminent. 

“Probably next week," Oesterle said. "She’s out with a concussion right now.”  

CMU heads to Kent, Ohio, on Wednesday, Feb. 2, to face Kent State at 7 p.m.