The rub, as is the case in every tournament championship game, was there could only be one victor. The Bulls advanced with an 89-74 win over Central Michigan.
In winning their sixth straight game and improving to 26-8, the Bulls bolstered their school-record victory total and matched the 2009 Niagara team for most wins by a Big 4 school in the modern era. The Chippewas never trailed after the first quarter, and managed to stay out of harms way down the stretch against Buffalo (27-5). The two are undefeated when playing for championships, winning a MI state high school title and now a MAC title together. "I guess I wouldn't put a number to it". "Do you feel the pressure?"
"And it's been hard". "They have helped prepare me for these games". "I want to coach them".
"I mean, I love this team".
While regarded as one of the nation's most competitive conferences, the MAC hasn't had much NCAA success in recent years. Toledo is trying to earn an NCAA bid for the first time in 38 years. Buffalo, which had a season-low five turnovers, got 24 points off CMU's miscues.
"This is what we've been working toward all season", Hudson said.
"We can play on that stage", Legette-Jack said. "You just saw with the two best teams in our league going at each other and giving it everything they had".
"I don't want to do the two-step; one step in, one step out", she said. "Kids want to go to the NCAA".
The tournament title was a fitting conclusion to arguably the best season in program history as the Chippewas won the regular-season title outright by going 17-1 in MAC regular-season play. The combined 187 points were the most ever in a MAC tournament game that didn't go to overtime.More news: How tariffs, trade war fears roil U.S. financial markets
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Buffalo ranks 122nd in steals per game (6.3) while Toledo ranks 255th (3.7). "They focused on the process and getting better than they were a year ago". The freshman finished with a career-high 26 points.
Cecil Williams had 21 points and 13 rebounds to pace Central Michigan (19-14), which cut a 14-point second-half deficit to two, but couldn't come up with a big defensive stop in the final minutes.
"We just kept continuing to work at it", said Moore.
Before the game, Oats pulled aside Clark, who played for him at a MI high school, and told him that it was up to him to get the Bulls back in the NCAA field.
Cierra Dillard had 26 points to lead Buffalo, and hit 9 of 10 free throws. Dillard added two rebounds and 10 assists to her stat line. Summer Hemphill and Autumn Jones each added 13 points. Breen chipped in 10 points and four assists also.
But the Bulls answered back with nine unanswered points. CMU had a 43-40 lead at halftime.
The Bulls find out who and when they play in the NCAA tournament Sunday at Selection Day. But CMU hit four of eight free throws over the final 30 seconds to seal it. To make its first tournament since 2013, Central Michigan avenged its last loss, an 85-82 setback in Buffalo. But that reality leeched none of the exhilaration from the win for CMU. She was named to the All-Tournament team. It was his 20th straight game in double figures.
"It was a great feeling, man", Clark said.