Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
KENT, Ohio - They lost a critical cog, but gained some inspiration.
Crystal Bradford scored 17 points to lead five Chippewas in double figures Saturday as the Central Michigan women's basketball team posted an 83-62 victory over Kent State in its Mid-American Conference opener at the Flashes' M.A.C. Center.
The Chippewas (6-6) got word Friday that starting guard Jessica Green was lost for the season to a knee injury.
"It's just been a tough 48 hours ... you just feel so bad for Jess," coach Sue Guevara said after the game, the emotion of losing a member of a senior class that has meant so much to the program very much evident in her voice. "We had very high expectations and she's a very big part of that.
"I told our team that today was an adjustment game and there's some things that we have to get better at that (Green) brings to the table. I give our kids kudos because they were able to maybe put it aside for a little bit. We're thinking about her and just hoping the surgery goes well."
Green was injured with under a minute remaining in CMU's 98-89 non-conference loss Wednesday to Dayton. An MRI performed on Friday revealed a torn ACL.
Green, who missed the end of her sophomore season with a knee injury, was second on the team in scoring and assists and was a mainstay in the starting lineup throughout her career, during which she scored 1,211 points, good for 16th in school history. Her 308 career assists rank among the top 10 in Chippewa record books.
Bradford, who wore Green's No. 3 jersey for Saturday's game, knows first-hand the devastation of the injury after she herself suffered the same fate on the eve of the MAC Tournament last season.
"Inspiration, motivation," said Bradford, who also had eight reobunds. "I'm planning on wearing this jersey for the rest of the season, just to remind me to keep pushing, and that it can be all over in one play, one possession. It's definitely inspiring for me to wear this jersey."
Freshman Cassie Breen added 16 points, Da'Jourie Turner had 15, and Kerby Tamm and Jas'Mine Bracey finished with 14 apiece for the Chippewas. It was the second consecutive game, and just the second time this season, that five CMU players scored in double figures.
Bracey grabbed nine rebounds as the Chippewas out-boarded the Flashes, 44-28. Tamm dished out six assists.
Turner, a junior who started in place of Green and logged 32 minutes (she had been averaging 14.5), matched her career-high with 15 points. Her five assists were also a career-best.
"I'm very proud of Ree Ree," Bradford said. "I know she has it in her. I know she's going to unleash it now that she has a bigger role. She played really well today, under control.
"Fifteen points is one thing, but on the defensive end she got it done. She was disrupting their offense (guarding) their point guard. Proud of Ree Ree today."
The Chippewas made 52.7 of their field goal attempts including a 44 percent from three-point range. Tamm and Breen combined to finished 8-for-17 from beyond the arc.
The Chippewas also made 14 of their 17 free throw attempts (82.4 percent). All three percentages - overall from the floor, three-pointers and free throws - were season-bests.
"We were able to score when we needed to score, we got stops when we needed to," Guevara said. "It was a performance that I would say, offensively, was not bad; but defensively, we have to be better."
McKenna Stephens scored 17 points to lead Kent State (2-10, 0-1).
The Chippewas trailed just once, 2-0, in the game's first minute. A 20-7 spurt - bookended by three-pointers from Tamm and Breen - put the Chippewas up 11, 20-9, with under 13 minutes to play in the half.
The Chipewas extended their lead to as many as 17 in the first half before settling for a 44-34 halftime advantage.
CMU stretched the lead to 18 points six minutes into the second half, and was never seriously threatened thereafter. The lead crested the 20-point mark several times in the final 11 minutes.
The Chippewas return home for two MAC games next week. On Wednesday, they play host to Buffalo at McGuirk Arena, and on Saturday they entertain Northern Illinois.