CLEVELAND - It's time to put on your dancing shoes.
The Central Michigan women's basketball team earned a convincing 86-68 victory over No. 3 seed Akron in the championship of the Mid-American Conference Tournament to earn its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1984.
The Chippewas (21-11) earned the victory behind a balanced offensive attack that saw six players score in double figures, including 14 points each by its three seniors – Brandie Baker, Jessica Schroll and Jalisa Olive.
Junior Taylor Johnson and MAC Tournament MVP Crystal Bradford scored 13 apiece, while junior Niki DiGuilio made four key threes in the second half to account for all 12 of her points.
CMU held a slim four-point lead at halftime, 39-35, thanks to a fadeaway three by Bradford just before the buzzer, but saw the Zips (23-9) cut the lead to one in the opening moments of the second half, 41-40.
That's when the Maroon and Gold opened things up with a 19-4 run over a stretch of 5:16 that allowed them to grab a 60-44 lead. Bradford sparked the run with an offensive rebound and putback, and back-to-back transition baskets forced Akron into a 30-second timeout with 16:48 left. That allowed the Zips a chance to regroup and to cut the Chippewas' lead to five, 49-44,, but CMU quickly responded by scoring 11 straight behind a pair of threes from Olive and a dagger three in the corner by DiGuilio with 12:17 to play.
That three was the first of four straight by the junior sharp-shooter as she helped the Chippewas push their lead to as much as 18, 68-50. DiGuilio's final three of the afternoon came at the 5:55 mark after the Zips had scored five straight, pushing CMU's lead back to 14, 73-59.
The rest was smooth sailing for the Chippewas as head coach Sue Guevara promptly pulled each of her upperclassmen - Baker, Schroll, Olive, DiGuilio and Johnson - from the game one by one to standing ovations from the CMU faithful in attendance.
The Central Michigan Athletics Department will host a watch party at O'Kelly's Sports Bar & Grill Monday evening. More details will be available on CMUChippewas.com at a later time.