If Sue Guevara was expecting a calm, smooth stroll through the Mid-American Conference women’s tournament, well, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
“Well, you know what,” Guevera said with a chuckle, “the best thing is, I’ve worked out before each of the games, so that takes the stress level down.”
For the second consecutive game, the MAC’s top-seeded team stormed out of the gate and opened up a big lead, only to feel the heat late. On Friday, the Chippewas held off Miami (Ohio), 61-58, to advance to Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
On Wednesday, Central Michigan surged out to a huge early lead on Eastern Michigan, before winning, 67-64.
But, hey, as they say, the box scores don’t draw pictures.
“Hey, give credit to our kids for the resiliency and the resolve,” said Guevara, in her 11th season as Central Michigan’s coach. “We’re just finding a way to win.
“We were able to survive.”
Next up for Central Michigan (27-4) is No. 2 seed Buffalo (27-4), an 85-53 winner over Western Michigan (18-15). The winner of the championship earns the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Chippewas, with a strong RPI and strength of schedule, are a legit candidate to earn an at-large if they stumble today, not that the team is looking at that as a viable option.
Junior forward Reyna Frost led Central Michigan with 18 points and 12 rebounds in Friday’s win, while red-shirt freshman guard Micaela Kelly (Detroit King) scored 16. Senor forward Tinara Moore (Southgate), the MAC player of the year, added 12 rebounds, and junior guard Presley Hudson had 10 points.
Hudson, who was runner-up to Moore in player-of-the-year voting, has struggled mightily with foul trouble in both games in Cleveland. She fouled out of the win over Eastern Michigan, allowing the Eagles to make a game of things late despite a 21-5 first-quarter deficit.
On Friday against Miami (21-10), Central Michigan took a 21-10 first-quarter lead, but then was outscored 15-6 in the second.
It hasn’t been easy, but who said this time of year is easy. Last year, Central Michigan went to Cleveland the top seed, and was knocked off in the quarterfinals.
“We have survived the last two games,” said Guevara, whose looking for a second trip to the NCAAs with the Chippewas, first since 2013. “We have been able to finish the plays down the stretch on both ends of the floor.
“In this game tomorrow, every possession is going to be important and I think that’s big.”
As is getting Hudson going, and out of foul trouble.
With her on the bench much of Wednesday’s game, Central Michigan committed 23 turnovers to Eastern Michigan’s seven. On Friday, Central Michigan had 13 to Miami’s 12.
“Pres is pressing,” said Guevera, “instead of letting the game come to her.”
Central Michigan’s lone MAC loss this season came to Buffalo, 85-82 at Buffalo. Meanwhile, the Chippewas won the game in Mount Pleasant, 86-79.
Buffalo is a physical, athletic team that defends very well in the post and doesn’t freely allow ball screens, and is led by junior guard Cierra Dillard, who averages 14.6 points a game and who scored 17 in the victory over Western Michigan.
Buffalo is coached by Felisha Legette-Jack, a former assistant coach at Michigan State.
Toledo 64, Eastern Michigan 63: Marreon Jackson scored 26 and the go-ahead 3-pointer with nine seconds left and No. 2 seed Toledo beat No. 3 seed Eastern Michigan to advance to the Mid-American Conference championship game.
Jackson tied it at 61 with a 3 with 45 seconds left before Eastern Michigan’s Paul Jackson made it a two-point advantage 24 seconds later.
On the Eagles’ last possession, Kevin McAdoo missed a short shot with three seconds to go. In the ensuing tie-up for the ball with 0.8 seconds left, officials reviewed the play and discovered the clock stopped for 1.9 seconds when the Eagles inbounded the ball after Jackson’s final 3 and promptly ended it there.
Willie Jackson scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Toledo (23-10).
Paul Jackson led the Eagles (21-12) with 26 points, Elijah Minnie scored 13 and McAdoo, 10.
The win came at a price as the Rockets lost MAC Conference Player of the Year and leading scorer Tre’Shaun Fletcher just 23 seconds into the game with a knee injury. Fletcher injured the knee the night before in a quarterfinal win against Miami. Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk said Fletcher’s availability in the championship game against top-seeded Buffalo is questionable.
No. 1 Virginia 64, No. 19 Clemson 58: Kyle Guy scored 15 points and Virginia (30-2) advanced to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game and will face fifth-ranked and second-seeded Duke or 12th-ranked and sixth-seeded North Carolina for the tournament title Saturday night in Brooklyn. Shelton Mitchell had 18 points and Elijah Thomas added 15 for the fourth-seeded Tigers (23-9).
No. 2 Villanova 87, Butler 68: Mikal Bridges had 18 points and Villanova (29-4) scored the first 19 points and cruised toward its fourth straight trip in the Big East Tournament championship game in a win over Butler.
Providence 75, No. 3 Xavier 72, OT: Alpha Diallo hit a go-ahead jumper with 2:22 left in overtime and fifth-seeded Providence (21-12) rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit and stunned top-seeded Xavier (28-5) in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.
No. 12 North Carolina 74, No. 5 Duke 69: Luke Maye scored 17 points, including North Carolina’s last field goal with 5:33 remaining, and North Carolina (25-9) held off a late rally by Duke (26-7) to advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship game.
No. 8 Cincinnati 61, SMU 51: Kyle Washington scored 15 points and Gary Clark added 12 points and 11 rebounds Friday to help Cincinnati beat SMU in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
No. 9 Kansas 83, Kansas State 67: Malik Newman poured in 22 points, Silvio De Sousa filled in admirably for ailing big man Udoka Azubuike and Kansas (26-7) beat short-handed Kansas State (23-10) to reach the Big 12 Tournament title game.
No. 11 Wichita State 89, Temple 81: Landry Shamet scored 24 points, Rashard Kelly had 16 and Wichita State (25-6) beat Temple (17-14) in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
No. 13 Tennessee 62, Mississippi State 59: Lamonte Turner scored 15 points and Tennessee (24-7) locked down on defense to beat Mississippi State (22-11) in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
No. 18 West Virginia 66, No. 14 Texas Tech 63: Daxter Miles Jr. had 22 points for West Virginia, and Niem Stevenson’s half-court heave at the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the iron, giving the Mountaineers (24-9) a win over Texas Tech (24-9) in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals.
No. 15 Arizona 78, UCLA 67, OT: Deandre Ayton scored seven of his 32 points in overtime and grabbed 14 rebounds, lifting Arizona (26-7) to a victory over UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.
Alabama 81, No. 16 Auburn 63: Collin Sexton scored 31 and Alabama (19-14) used a strong second half to defeat Auburn (25-7) in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
No. 21 Houston 84, UCF 56: Galen Robinson scored 18 points, Rob Gray had 17 points, six assists and five rebounds, and Houston beat UCF in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
San Diego State 90, No. 22 Nevada 73: Devin Watson scored 20 points to lead San Diego State to a blowout victory over Nevada in the Mountain West Conference semifinals.
Arkansas 80, No. 23 Florida 72: Jaylen Barford scored 27 points and matched his career high with 10 rebounds to help send Arkansas (23-10) to the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a win over Florida.
No. 25 Rhode Island 76, VCU 67: Jeff Dowtin scored 18 points, Jared Terrell added 16 points and Rhode Island (24-6) survived a challenge from VCU in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
Buffalo 78, Kent State 61
Toledo 64, Eastern Michigan 63
Buffalo vs. Toledo, 7 (ESPN2)
Central Michigan 61, Miami 58
Buffalo 85, Western Michigan 53
Central Michigan vs. Buffalo, 11 a.m. (CBSSN)