Women's Basketball earns first MAC title with 79-68 victory over Ball State
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CLEVELAND – The third-seeded University of Akron women's basketball team won its first Mid-American Conference championship in program history Saturday afternoon, defeating fifth-seeded Ball State, 79-68, at Quicken Loans Arena.
With the victory, UA (23-9) earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, marking the first time in the program's 40-year history Akron has advanced to play on the national stage.
Tournament MVP Rachel Tecca led all scorers with 30 points and 12 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season. She poured in 20 of her points before halftime to help UA secure a comfortable 11-point lead at the break.
Luburgh was limited to six points but pulled down 12 rebounds, as the Zips handily out-rebounded Ball State, 46-30. Carly Young scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds off the bench, surpassing 1,000 career points in the process.
Ball State (18-16) was led by 23 points from Brittany Carter.
The two teams played each other evenly for the better part of the first half, until a layup from Tecca put the Zips ahead by nine points at 31-22 by the 5:32 mark. A free throw from BSU's Renee Bennett trimmed Akron's lead to three with the score at 33-30 and 4:28 remaining in the opening period, but that is when the Zips turned on the offensive firepower.
UA's defense held Ball State scoreless for the remainder of the half, and went on to outscore the Cardinals 30-9 by the 12:33 mark of the second half. A fastbreak jumper from Cassell put Akron up 60-39, and the Zips would harness their largest lead of the day at 25 points two minutes later.
Young reached the 1,000 point milestone on a 3-pointer from the right wing with 7:54 on the clock, keeping the advantage above 20 points. The Cardinals would eventually cut it all the way down to 10, with the score at 75-65 and 3:26 left to play. Two free throws from Cassell with over a minute to go put the icing on the cake, giving Akron it's first MAC Tournament crown.
Zips Notebook: Akron's 2014 NCAA Tournament appearance will be the fourth overall postseason appearance for the Zips in school history (WNIT 2013, 1999; WBI 2010) ... This will be head coach Jodi Kest's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a Division I head coach ... Tecca and Luburgh earned All-MAC Tournament Team honors for the second consecutive season ... This is the third time in the MAC Tournament's 33-year history that the No. 3 seed has won the league title.