Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
CLEVELAND - It's never easy in March.
And it's never easy to play with a bulls-eye on your back.
Central Michigan survived a late Eastern Michigan charge on Wednesday, emerging with a 67-64 victory in a Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinal game at Quicken Loans Arena.
CMU (26-4) will play Miami (Ohio) on Friday in a semifinal. The fourth-seeded RedHawks (21-9) advanced with a 69-66 win over Ohio on Wednesday. CMU defeated Miami, 84-66, during the regular season.
The Chippewas entered the tournament as the regular-season champion and the No. 1 seed. And it looked early like they would cruise past the No. 9 Eagles, building a 21-point lead midway through the second quarter.
CMU's lead was a seemingly comfortable 13, 62-49, with just over three minutes to play in the game, when Eastern made a charge. The Eagles twice pulled to within one, the second time with 41 seconds left.
Reyna Frost hit two free throws with 19 seconds to play for the final margin, and the Eagles' Danielle Minott's 3-pointer at the buzzer missed.
"Well, I guess it's March, and it's survive and advance," CMU coach Sue Guevara said. "Hats off to Eastern Michigan, they gave us everything that we almost didn't handle, but we handled it down the stretch."
All five CMU starters finished in double figures, accounting for 65 of CMU's points. Tinara Moore had 17 points, Cassie Breen and Frost had 14 apiece, and Micaela Kelly and Presley Hudson had 10 each.
Frost finished with 14 rebounds for her 14th double-double of the season and the 29th of her career. Moore had eight rebounds.
Frost, a 6-foot junior, surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for her career. She is the 30th Chippewa to have scored 1,000 career points.
First, the good: CMU outrebounded the Eagles, 50-34; and held Eastern to 33.8 percent shooting, including 25.7 percent in the first half. CMU led, 35-21, at the break.
The Chippewas finished 12 of 16 from the free throw line, including five of six in the fourth quarter. Frost made all four of her free throw attempts in the final 54 seconds, and was good on all six of her attempts in the game.
The not-so-good: The Chippewas committed 23 turnovers, trying for their second-highest total on the season; and they finished just 3 for 17 from 3-point range. The three triples was a season low.
Hudson, the Chippewas' junior point guard, fouled out with under 21 seconds to play and the Chippewas clinging to their lead.
"Frost (was) saying in the huddle saying, `OK, everybody just calm down, everybody just calm down, we have this, we just have to make sure we know where the shooters are,'" Guevara said. "We just need to keep our cool, keep our cool. And that's Frosty in the huddle."
A year ago, the Chippewas dropped their tournament opener to rival Western Michigan, 67-63, as the Broncos rallied late.
"For a second in my mind I'm thinking deja vu, deja vu, I'm thinking oh, dear Lord please," Guevara said. "We just had to get our (defensive) stops because we were struggling so badly offensively.