Second-quarter slump cost women’s basketball against WMU

Senior forward Jahari Smith goes for a layup Dec. 11 in McGuirk Arena.

Even though they started fast, Central Michigan women’s basketball team’s lead couldn’t survive extended scoreless stretches.

With the Chippewas offense falling stagnant in the second quarter, Western Michigan took control and never relented. The Broncos secured a 58-44 win in McGuirk Arena on Wednesday.

“This one really hurts,” said head coach Heather Oesterle. “I thought we were on the right track, we played well against Buffalo, we played well against Northern (Illinois). This looked like the team that started the season. I just told them I’m looking for consistency.”

CMU falls to 3-9 overall and 1-2 in MAC play. With the win, the Broncos improve to 2-0 in the conference and 8-3 on the year.

The Chippewas welcomed back redshirt junior forward Anika Weekes, who returned after missing the previous two games. With WMU featuring sophomore Lauren Ross, the fourth leading scorer in the MAC, Oesterle elected to gave senior guard Kalle Martinez the starting nod over Weekes.

Martinez blanketed Ross and subsequently stifled the Broncos’ offensive attack through the first quarter. The Chippewas tried to take advantage of the lull in action from three-point land, but as the pace intensified both teams struggled to break out. 

With shots rattling out, senior center Jahari Smith went to work and helped buoy CMU, as she tallied nine rebounds in the opening frame. Smith’s success on the glass gave the Chippewas the lead as the quarter ended. 

The Broncos switched to a 3/4 quarter press to open the second, and CMU took advantage. Smith continued to work the interior grabbing her eleventh rebound, and Davis immediately shook her defender on the other end leading to free throws.  

However, as time ticked away in the quarter, WMU began to find its footing with Davis and Smith in foul trouble. Forced to run a smaller lineup, CMU lost track of Ross as she found her rhythm. The Broncos used a 15-0 run to take a 29-22 lead into halftime. 

CMU ratcheted up its defensive intensity and Davis looked to respond fast following the intermission. The Chippewas fought back, but the shots stopped falling as the Broncos took an 11-point advantage. 

Down big, Davis and Smith began to find success working the pick-and-roll, opening up shooters on the wing. Because of this, CMU managed to cut the Broncos lead to five, but they once again struggled to slow Ross, who helped increase the lead going into the final frame. 

The back-and-forth nature of the contest continued into the fourth, as the Chippewas once again found themselves five points behind. However, a six-minute scoreless streak down the stretch for CMU allowed the Broncos to extend their lead back to 14 points as the contest ended.

Smith led the way for CMU tallying her fifth double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points and 23 rebounds. Smith’s performance on the glass places her in a tie for fourth-most rebounds in a game all-time at CMU with Reyna Frost.

“I think it’s very simple, it’s just the want to,” Smith said. “You want to rebound so you will, that’s all rebounding is.”

Davis led the Chippewas in scoring with 13 while adding six assists.

WMU’s Ross led all scorers in the contest with 25 points on 10-for-18 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds.

Both teams shot 17.6% from behind the arc, with CMU shooting 6-for-34 from range compared to 3-for-17 for the Broncos.  

The Chippewas will face-off against Eastern Michigan at 1 p.m. Saturday in Ypsilanti.