BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Central Michigan entered Saturday’s Mid-American Conference championship game against Buffalo as the highest scoring team (82 PPG) and one of the best shooting teams in the league.
The Chippewas shot 53-percent from the floor and made 12-three pointers to earn the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament with a 96-91 victory in the MAC title game over UB.
The Bulls will now have to wait to learn their postseason fate, with an opportunity to secure an at-large bid into the Big Dance on Selection Monday.
The loss also snaps Buffalo’s 11-game winning streak.
“I think that we’ve done the work. 12-0 at home. We beat every team in big conferences,” Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. “We won we’re 11-of-12 in the last 12 games. We beat a good team in Central Michigan, we beat Nebraska whose coach finished as Coach of the year, and we done some things without Stephanie at Arizona State. So I’m excited about this opportunity to go out and dance on the biggest stage.”
“The season’s definitely not over. We definitely have a longer run to look forward to,” added sophomore Summer Hemphill. “This wasn’t our game but we can definitely learn from it. It’s definitely a great learning lesson to learn from before we continue our journey.”
UB received an added blow with senior guard Stephanie Reid exiting at the end of their quarter with a hand injury. She’d return in the opening minutes of fourth quarter, but would need to be carried off the court and to the bench mid-way through the final frame with what appeared to be an injury her right ankle.
Reid would miss the final four minutes of the game and finished with 15 points.
Presley Hudson and Micaela Kelly powered the Chippewa offense combining for 51 points and eight 3-pointers.
After jumping out to a 5-4 lead in the first quarter, the Bulls went scoreless for four minutes while the Chips opened up a 26-14 lead.
“Central Michigan always comes out very strong, they throw the first punch and they surround themselves with great 3point shooters with two bigs inside,” Cierr Dillard said. “It’s hard. They have a good program.”
Buffalo battled back and tied the game at 37 using a 15-3 run midway through the second, but they would still trail 46-43 at the break.
UB would stay within striking distance in the second half, getting as close as four in the third before Central Michigan opened things back up close out the game.
“The sisterhood, the fight, the energy, the conversations at halftime, the conversations on the bench that solidify what we’re trying to build at Buffalo,” added Legette-Jack. “The ability to see young phenomenal woman, and sometimes you have to do it through success but sometimes you have to do it through defeat”
Dillard led the way for with 26 points, while Summer Hemphill chipped in with 13. Autumn Jones continued to provide energy off the bench, dropping in 11, which included a buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter.