Central Michigan women’s NCAA run ends in loss to Oregon

Dylan Goetz
The Detroit News

Spokane, Wash. — Central Michigan women’s basketball’s history-making season has ended.

The Central Michigan Chippewas were outshot and outrebounded against the Oregon Ducks in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Oregon (33-4) dominated Central Michigan 83-69 in Spokane Arena. Oregon forward Ruthy Hebard scored a team-high 23 points for the Ducks. Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu added 16 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

Oregon moves on to the Elite Eight, where it will face Notre Dame, which beat Texas A&M 90-84 in Saturday's early game in Spokane Arena.

“I cannot tell you enough how proud I am of our team and the way we battled,” CMU head coach Sue Guevara said. “We just couldn’t get over the hump.”

Oregon built a 12-point lead in the first quarter, and the Chippewas (30-5) were never able to come back

Senior forward Tinara Moore led the Chippewas with 23 points and 14 rebounds in the season-ending loss.

“It’s just been amazing,” Moore said, while she, Presley Hudson and Cassie Breen held back tears at the press conference.

In a slow shooting start from both teams, junior forward Reyna Frost swatted Oregon guard Lexi Bando to avoid going down two possessions in the first three minutes.

The Ducks jumped to a 10-4 lead before the first timeout. Redshirt freshman guard Micaela Kelly and Ducks guard Lexi Bando traded 3-pointers, and Oregon earned an extra possession after Moore turned the ball over.

Hudson was blocked while taking the first quarter’s final shot. Oregon led 24-12 at the first break.

“It came down to the first quarter,” Guevara said. “We had some open looks, looks that usually go in, that did not go in.”

Oregon forward Satou Sabally spun down the lane to convert an and-one jump shot — extending Oregon’s lead to 13 three minutes into the second quarter.

Hudson hit her first shot of the game with seconds left in the first half. As a team, the Chippewas made 11-of-37, good for 30 percent, in the first half. Oregon led 40-25 at the break.

To start the second half, Hudson hit a deep 3-pointer, and Oregon guard Maite Cazorla answered with a 3-pointer.

CMU senior guard Breen cut Oregon’s lead to 10 in the third quarter after being fouled before making a layup. She followed the and-one with her second 3-pointer of the game.

Oregon senior guard Justin Hall hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter — giving the Ducks a 66-48 lead.

The Chippewas couldn’t stop Oregon’s offense, and the Ducks jumped to a 76-58 lead. Oregon fans started filing out of Spokane Arena with two minutes and 30 seconds remaining. Their team held an 80-64 lead in the final timeout.

Despite the loss, the Chippewas had a historic season. They made their deepest run in the NCAA Tournament and won a program-high 30 games. Their previous highest win total was in 1984, when they had 27 wins and an NCAA Tournament berth.

CMU also won four straight games in Cleveland to become 2018 Mid-American Conference Tournament Champions for the first time since 2013.

After the game, Guevara told her team how proud she was in the locker room.

“I went in and told them I was so proud,” Guevara said. “When you lose a basketball game, and you did everything that you could possibly do, sometimes you just lose to a better team.”

Oregon head coach Kelly Graves commended the Chippewas.

“The run they made is pretty special,” Graves said. “Those kids will remember that forever. I’ll tell you, they were tough as nails tonight, that’s for sure.

“(Guevara) is a great coach. What I really appreciate is you can tell those players love her and they play really hard for her. I wish Central Michigan all the best.”

Dylan Goetz is a freelance writer.