MOUNT PLEASANT — Despite 20 points and a career-high 21 rebounds from sophomore Crystal Bradford, Central Michigan suffered its second-straight loss Thursday night to Ball State, 67-63.
The Chippewas (16-11, 10-4 MAC) took control of the game with a 15-3 run in the first half in which they held the Cardinals (14-13, 11-3 MAC) without a field goal for a stretch of 8:14 to close the half to lead 33-32 at the break.
The stretch continued as the Maroon and Gold extended their lead to seven, 39-32, by scoring the first six points of the second half. Ball State eventually broke the drought of 12:13 without a field goal on a three by Brandy Woody with 17:01 to play in the contest.
Senior Jalisa Olive hit back-to-back threes for the Chippewas to extend the lead back to eight, 45-37, with 15:47 to play, but the Cardinals came roaring back behind hot three-point shooting. A three by Shelbie Justice tied the game at 50 and another trey, this time by Brittany Carter, again tied the game at 54.
The Chippewas reclaimed the lead on a three-point play by junior Taylor Johnson in which Bradford found her with a no-look pass underneath. Another layup by Johnson put CMU up six, 60-54, with 4:41 to play, but it would be the last field goal the Chippewas would hit down the stretch.
A layup by Nathalie Fontaine pulled Ball State within one, and then yet another three by Woody, her fourth of the game, gave the Cardinals the lead for good, 65-63.
CMU had a chance to tie the game when senior Jessica Schroll went to the basket after the Chippewas had made a defensive stop, but her attempt among three Cardinals fell short and BSU sealed the game with free throws.
The Cardinals finished the contest 11-for-22 from downtown while CMU, the MAC leader in three-point field goals, finished just 3-for-22.
Three players scored in double figures for the Chippewas, including Olive who had 13 off the bench and Johnson who finished the night with 12. Bradford's 21 rebounding effort was just the fourth 20-plus game in program history and ranks second in single-game history.
The Central Michigan women's basketball program will be back in action Sunday at Northern Illinois where it will play the first of two road games to close the regular season. CMU is currently slotted as the No. 3 seed in the upcoming FirstEnergy MAC Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, March 13-16.