Sound the alarm! CMU women have home date with No. 3 Louisville

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The last time Central Michigan hosted Louisville in women's basketball, Dec. 2, 2009, the Chippewas trailed by a basket with about 10 minutes remaining.

Then, some still-on-the-lam fan pulled the fire alarm, what then was called Rose Arena was evacuated, and the game was halted for more than 20 minutes.

"When we came back on the court I go down to Jeff (Walz, Louisville coach), and I said, 'I have no idea what happened,'" Central coach Sue Guevara recalled this week. "Then, as we're talking, something falls out of the ceiling. We both look down, and I look, and it's a screw from the ceiling.

"And I turn to Jeff, 'Oh, God, you're screwed.'"

Central Michigan's Presley Hudson is averaging 23.3 points.

When play finally resumed, sure enough, the Chippewas caught fire and pulled off the 84-75 upset.

Louisville comes back to Mount Pleasant on Thursday night, and brings with it the No. 3 ranking in the country. It's a much-hyped matchup, given Louisville's prominence as a Final Four team a year ago — and home of shooting guard Asia Durr, projected to be the No. 1 or 2 overall pick in the WNBA Draft — and Central Michigan is off to an 8-1 start and earning voter consideration, too, coming off last season's run to the Sweet 16.

The lower bowl of now-McGuirk Arena already was sold out as of Wednesday, even though students aren't on campus, given its the holiday break. Tip-off is set for 7.

Still, Guevara, as is her M.O., isn't trying to make too much of the matchup, even though she's appreciative of Walz bringing his team to a mid-major campus for a game. She likes to keep things normal, outside of the Ugly Christmas Sweater she'll be wearing.

"It's not any bigger than the one we just played," said Guevara, "or the one we played last week, or the ones we play next week.

"If I wasn't crazy enough to think we could be on the same court with them, we wouldn't have done it. And we're looking forward to it."

The game came about in the spring, during a chance encounter between friends Guevara and Walz. She jokingly asked for a home game, he laughed. And then, a few weeks later, he called her, asked if she was seriously and said, essentially, "Let's do it."

It's a home-and-home, with Central heading to Louisville next season.

But that's next season, and this is this season — and Guevara prefers to live in the present, and in the present Louisville is 11-0, one of 18 unbeaten teams in Division I. That said, the present is pretty good for the Chippewas, too, having reeled off six consecutive wins, including at Virginia, at Quinnipiac and at Vanderbilt. They're not ranked in the main polls, but are fifth in the mid-major Top 25.

Guevara's Big Three, led by senior guard Presley Hudson (23.3 points a game, fifth in the nation), is doing what Big Three's are supposed to do, but Guevara also is getting contributions from the bench, and some freshmen. Central has five players shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range.

"I like how our team has stepped up to the challenge," Guevara said. "We have the sang, 'ETC,' embrace the challenge, and embrace the change.

"We're a challenge to people.

"We're just gonna compete, that's all I can tell you."

Central looks to join Michigan State in pulling off the win over a top-five team. Earlier this month, Michigan State won in East Lansing, 88-82, against Oregon, then ranked No. 3.

Central then heads to Coral Gables, Fla., for games against Tulane and Miami (Fla.) just before the new year, before Mid-American Conference play starts Jan. 5 against Akron.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984