CMU women's basketball grabs first win

Graduate student guard Anika Weeks dribbles the ball during the game against North Dakota State on Saturday, Dec. 3 in McGuirk Arena.

Down by two with .8 seconds left in the game, freshman guard Sydney Harris connected on three free throws giving Central Michigan women's basketball a 66-65 win over North Dakota State on Saturday. 

The Chippewas improve to 1-6 on the season.

"I've been in situations like that when it comes down to free throws," Harris said. "But I mean, free throws at the end of the game are big no matter what. The first half, the second half free throws are free points that we need and I mean I know I'm a great free throw shooter and I shoot a great percentage from there and we needed this win as a team and I knew what I needed to do, and I just did it." 

In the first quarter, Harris and freshman guard Bridget Utberg combined for 17 of the Chippewas 20 points. Utberg had nine points in the quarter and shot 100% from the floor. 

CMU shot 4-for-9 (44.4%) from the three-point line. The Chippewas also limited their turnovers in the quarter only having four compared to the Bisons' seven. 

The Bisons came crawling back into the game at the beginning of the second quarter. But their run was halted as grad-transfer forward Jnaya Walker made back-to-back three-pointers, sparking a 10-2 run. Taking a 39-30 lead into the half, CMU shot 6-for-13 (46.2%) from the floor and 3-for-6 (50%) from the three-point line. 

In the first half, the Bison had 18 points in the paint compared to the Chippewas eight. The Bison also had 12 turnovers compared to the Chippewas 10. CMU scored 12 points off of the Bison's 12 turnovers in the half. 

At halftime, Harris had 13 points and Utberg had 11 points and four steals. 

Following the break, North Dakota State went on a 5-0 run until Utberg was found grad-transfer center Rochelle Norris in the paint for the easy layup. The Bison continued attacking going a 12-2 run. 

Six turnovers plagued CMU in the third quarter, giving the Bison easy looks the other way. The Bison shot a remarkable 8-for-11 (72.7%) from the floor and 2-for-3 (66.7%) from the three-point line. Going into the fourth the Bison had a 51-49 lead.

"I think it was our players, and I'm gonna give them the credit, there's nothing I could say at that point," said head coach Heather Oesterle. "You know, it was just like, I sent Mikayla Kelly on our staff into the huddle because I was talking to the rest of my staff and I was like go tell them they won the third and we're gonna win the fourth. 

"And she was like, okay, so she went and told them that and it's like, okay, they had their third quarter, we won the first, second, and fourth. But it was just like we had to get back to winning again. The 50/50's the toughness plays and that's how we're going to beat people is outworking them and we got to use our speed and athleticism and we got to get on those and dive on the floor and create extra possessions for us." 

In the fourth quarter, the Bison took an eight-point. But Harris cut the deficit with a three-pointer. Anika Weekes had a huge five points in the quarter to keep the Chippewas in the game. 

With 5.1 seconds left the Chippewas had the opportunity to tie or win the game, however, Harris missed a potential game-winning three-pointer. With a chance for the Bison to win the game, Taylor Anderson made a great defensive play to force the ball out of bounds. 

With less than three seconds left, the Chippewas inbounded the ball and Sydney Harris got fouled while going up for a three. Harris went to the line and was able to make all three of her free throws to give the Chippewas a 66-65 lead with 0.8 left on the clock.

The Chippewas had three players in double figures, while Harris led the way with 21 points.

"That's a really good North Dakota State team," said Oesterle. "You know, I just think I'm most proud of our team and the fact that like we've had really good first halfs throughout the season. If you look at our last game Tulane, I mean, Michigan State here we had a really good first half, and then the third quarter we kind of dip and that's when other teams made their run. 

"And then it was like, okay, you know, our team flipped it. Around in the fourth quarter and it was like okay, you know they had their third quarter, and we came out and won the fourth quarter. So I was just really proud of the fight that we showed, you know, there was times where I'm like I don't want any sad puppy dog faces like we got to bounce back. You know, like they made their little run. Now we got to make our run so huge win for us. It takes a little pressure off, you know, because now we know we can pull out games. Now going into  a good Cleveland State team, gives us some confidence."

The Chippewas host Cleveland State on Thursday at 11 a.m.