St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands —Central Michigan took an 11-point lead early in the first half Thursday afternoon, but Kansas rallied to claim the opener of the Paradise Jam, 68-63.
Junior Crystal Bradford scored seven of her game-high 19 points in the first 5:43 of the contest, including a three with 14:17 to play in the first half that gave the Chippewas (1-3) a 14-3 lead. CMU continued to hold the lead and pushed it back to double digits when senior Niki DiGuilio knocked down a three at the 11:04 mark, but a 15-5 run by the Jayhawks (6-1) over the next 4:33 allowed them to take a 26-25 lead.
A pair of free throws by Asia Boyd put CMU down three, 28-25, but Bradford responded for the Chippewas with a three-point play the old fashion way to even the contest. DiGuilio again knocked down a three, her third of the half, with 1:05 to go in the first half to give CMU a 31-30 lead and after Dakota Gonzalez gave KU the lead back, junior Jas'Mine Bracey made one of two from the line to send the two teams to the break all square, 32-32.
Bracey gave the Chippewas lead with a layup 10 seconds into the second half and a Bradford jumper had CMU in front three with 19:04 to play, 36-33. The Jayhawks went on a 7-0 run soon after to take a 40-36 lead and never looked back.
The Chippewas trailed the rest of the way, but were never out of striking distance and cut the Jayhawks' lead to a single point five times. Kansas held a lead as much as seven, 64-57, with 1:44 to play, but CMU had one last rally in the tank.
A layup by junior Jessica Green and free throw by Bracey following a defensive stop pulled CMU within four, 64-60. After a pair of free throws by Cece Harper pushed the deficit back to six, Green made it a one-possession game with a three from the right wing with 46 seconds to play.
The Chippewas fouled and Natalie Knight hit both free throws to push the lead back to five, 68-63. CMU had the ball for the final 38 seconds of the game, but was unable to score against tight Kansas defense.
Bradford scored 19 points to lead all scorers, while Green had 15 points and a season-high six rebounds. Bracey finished with 13 boards and eight points and DiGuilio had nine points.
After shooting 4-for-10 from behind the arc in the first half, the Chippewas hit just 1-of-8 attempts from deep in the final 20 minutes. Kansas also held an advantage at the free throw line, taking 22 attempts to CMU’s 12. The Jayhawks went 19-for-22 from the line, while CMU went just 6-of-12.
CMU will continue play at the Paradise Jam tomorrow afternoon when it takes on No. 2 Duke at 1:15 p.m. The Blue Devils will be the highest ranked opponent in program history. Live stats can be following at Paradisejamstats.com and a free video stream is available via YouTube Live by visiting Facebook.com/ParadiseJam1 prior to tipoff.