NCAA tournament berth, MAC tournament MVP honors fire up CMU’s Reyna Frost

(Photo courtesy of Central Michigan’s athletics department) Reyna Frost takes her turn on the ladder, cutting down the net after Central Michigan’s women’s basketball team captured the MAC Tournament title on Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

MOUNT PLEASANT — Central Michigan University’s Reyna Frost has checked off a lot of boxes this year for the goals that her and her teammates laid out at the beginning of the season, but none were bigger than the Chippewas earning an NCAA Tournament berth for just the fourth time in school history.

Not that it needs any more motivation, but CMU will be eyeing its first ever win of an NCAA tournament game.

The Chippewas (28-4, 17-1 MAC ) drew the 11th seed in the Spokane region and will open against No. 6 Louisiana State University (19-9, 11-5 SEC) at 11 a.m. Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

“It’s going to be a really cool matchup, and we should have a lot of support,” said Frost. “My family’s really excited to come, because it’s only like four or five hours away for them.

“It’s already been a historical season for us, but now we’ve just got to concentrate on one play at a time, do what we’re capable of and we could really cause some problems for LSU,” she added. “I’m really excited to get the chance to pursue more goals that we’ve set for ourselves.”

Frost, or “Frosty” as 11th-year CMU coach Sue Guevara affectionately refers to her 6-foot junior forward, was a key contributor to helping deliver top-seeded Central Michigan the Mid-American Conference tournament title with a 96-91 win over Buffalo in Saturday’s championship game at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Her three double-doubles (points-rebounds) in as many MAC tournament games raised her season total to 16, and she was named just the third Chippewas’ MAC tournament MVP award winner, averaging 16.3 points and 13.3 rebounds while shooting 22 of 39 from the field and making 11 of 14 free throws.

“I played my heart out in those three games,” said Frost of the MAC tournament. “I was really hustling because I didn’t want to go home, and I want to thank my coaches and teammates for helping prepare me for (winning MAC tournament MVP).”

Added Guevara of Frost’s MAC tournament contributions, “The whole world saw what we get to see every game.”

Overall this season, Frost — a former Reese High standout who has started each of Central’s 32 games — is third on the team in scoring with her average of 14.1 points that makes her one of five Chippewas averaging double-figure scoring. She leads CMU with 11.8 rebounds per game, has shot 51.5 percent (167 of 324) from the field, 80 percent (78 of 98) at the free-throw line and 32 percent (11 of 34) from behind the three-point line. Additionally, Frost has compiled 70 assists, 53 steals and 30 blocks this season while maintaining a 3.85 cumulative grade-point average.

(Photo courtesy of Central Michigan’s athletics department) Central Michigan’s Reyna Frost accepts the MAC Tournament MVP trophy from league commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher after the Chippewas’ 96-91 win over Buffalo on Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

The list of Frost’s accomplishments goes on and on, with her currently ranking among the nation’s leading rebounders by checking in 12th as a follow-up to last year’s first foray into the ranks of college hoops’ top rebounders. Rounding out the rest of her highlights is the fact that she eclipsed both 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds

this season, and was named Second Team All-MAC after receiving Third Team honors last year.

“Her goal was to leave CMU as our all-time leading rebounder, and that’s going to happen,” said Guevara. “She keeps possessions alive for us with her offensive rebounding.”

CMU was coming off back-to-back MAC West Division regular-season titles after going through a 32-year drought that started in 1985. The Chippewas opened MAC tournament play with a 67-64 win over Eastern Michigan on Wednesday and followed that up with a 61-58 victory over Miami (Ohio) on Friday to reach the finals.

It’s the second MAC tournament title under Guevara for Central, which last reached the NCAA tournament in 2013 — also as an 11th seed — taking on sixth-seeded Oklahoma in a game the Sooners won 78-73. Central’s other NCAA tournament appearances came in 1983 and 1984.

“I can’t say enough about this team,” said Guevara. “They’re prepared, and they make the most out of the opportunities in front of them.”

Buffalo received an at-large bid as the 11th seed in the Albany Regional, giving the MAC two NCAA tournament representatives.