Jas'Mine Bracey is averaging 11.5 points for Central Michigan. (Joe Raymond / Associated Press)
There is something special going on in Mount Pleasant.
Central Michigan’s women’s basketball team is off to a 12-0 start in the Mid-American Conference and sharing the ball and credit for the success in the process.
The Chippewas are exciting to watch. They get up and down the court in a hurry, averaging 84.2 points and nine 3-pointers a game, ranking in the top 10 nationally in both categories. The 12-game winning streak is their best MAC start in 30 years when they went 18-0.
CMU has experience, depth and most important of all, talent. The Chippewas are the defending MAC champs and have a legitimate All-American in Crystal Bradford and an All-MAC first-team post player in physical 6-foot-2 Jas’Mine Bracey. Oh, they also have three-point shooters in Niki DiGuilio and Kerby Tamm and an elite point guard in Jessica Green.
The Chips can also score in bunches. They scored a program record 68 points in the first half against Western Michigan. They made a school-record 18-of-32 3-pointers in a win over Xavier in the Virgin Islands.
And, they used a 33-4 run during a 10-minute stretch in the win over Miami Saturday, making 8-of-11 threes during the spurt and scoring in transition after forcing turnovers out of their zone and trap defense.
“We have phenomenal athletes,” said DiGuilio. “I don’t even say much about Crystal Bradford because it is what it is (with her), but Jessica Green is a phenomenal athlete. When people start honing in on them, Crystal is one of the best passers I’ve every seen and so is Jessica and they can get the ball to you.”
Spreading the ball around
Bradford has a pair of triple-doubles and averages 19.5 points and 11.8 rebounds. She had 26 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a 84-81 overtime win at Ball State Feb. 6, rallying CMU back from a 65-50 deficit by scoring 12 during a 18-3 run to force overtime.
Sure, Bradford led the Chippewas in scoring against Ball State, but it was Tamm that led them with 19 points (5-for-8 threes) in a 74-63 win over Buffalo Feb. 9, Bracey with 18 points in a 80-63 win over Ohio Feb. 2 and DiGuilio with 24 points, making 8-of-12 threes Saturday in a 88-47 win over Miami.
Bracey has averaged 16.3 points and 13 rebounds during the last six games, shooting 70 percent from the field and grabbing 35 offensive rebounds, nine in a win over Eastern Michigan Jan. 30.
The Chippewas (16-8, 12-0) will play at Bowling Green (21-3, 11-1) Wednesday in what could be a MAC championship game preview. They defeated Bowling Green 82-79 in overtime Jan. 18 with Green leading the way with 23 points, scoring six during a 12-1 run during the final three minutes to force overtime.
“That’s going to be a dogfight in a nasty, competitive atmosphere and may the best team win,” said DiGuilio of facing Bowling Green.
Guevara enjoys second chance
Sue Guevara is in her seventh year as CMU’s head coach. Athletic director Dave Heeke recently handed her a new five-year deal, a reward for last year’s MAC championship.
Guevara had success at Michigan, guiding the Wolverines to NCAA tournament appearances in 1998, 2000 and again in 2001. She was fired two years later.
Guevara is thankful for her second chance as a head coach, taking over a struggling CMU program after working three years at Auburn as an assistant coach.
“Michigan gave me a chance and I will always be thankful for that,” said Guevara, 59. “I’m a recycled coach and I’m so thankful for the opportunity Central Michigan gave me. We have a lot of support from the administration and the community.”
Guevara enjoyed watching Steve Nash play for the Phoenix Suns several years ago and brought a similar uptempo style to CMU. The move worked well, resulting in consecutive trips to the MAC title game and possibly another one next month.
“It’s a fun style to watch and I think a fun style to play,” Guevara said. “You get to play to your strengths. We went with the dribble drive six years ago. We’ve recruited to that style or system. We’re pretty athletic and we have good size and good length. We have kids who can shoot it from the perimeter. We have kids who can penetrate, but we also have juniors and seniors who have been playing in this system and understand it. They’re free to create and they like it.”
CMU has 1,000-point scorers in Bradford , DiGuilio and Taylor Johnson and Green is 30 points away from making the Chippewas the 10th program in NCAA history to have four on the same team.
The Chippewas have a strong RPI (32). Their statement win is a 94-91 victory over Dayton Dec. 5, making three 3-pointers during the final 21 seconds, including two from Bradford with the final one coming with a second left.
Still, Guevara knows CMU will more than likely have to win the MAC tournament to make it back to the NCAA tourney, especially after Toledo failed to earn an at-large bit last year at 29-3 following a semifinal loss to the Chippewas.