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Posted on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

Eastern Michigan women's basketball takes MAC lead with win over Central Michigan

By Staff

The Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team took early control of its first-place showdown with visiting Central Michigan on Thursday night and held off a Chippewas’ rally for a 73-60 win.

Senior guard Tavelyn James scored 23 points for the Eagles (12-6, 4-1), who took sole possession of the Mid-American Conference West Division lead.

James, the reigning MAC West Player of the Week, had 13 points by the midway point of the first half. The Eagles scored the first 10 points of the game and stretched their lead to 20 points (32-12) on a Taylor Bird 3-pointer with 8:47 left in the first half.

The Eagles led 43-28 at halftime, but Central Michigan - which entered the game averaging a conference-best 79 points per game - heated up in the second half.

After making just 27.7 percent (9-of-33) of their shots before halftime, the Chippewas (11-8, 3-2) connected on 50 percent (14-of-28) in the second half. They got within seven points, 61-54, with 6:34 left to play.

Eastern Michigan scored the next six points to go back up by double-digits and sealed the game by hitting 6-of-7 free throws in the final 1:42.

Sophomore guard Natachia Watkins scored 12 of her 19 points in the second half for EMU. Desyree Thomas and Paige Redditt scored 11 points apiece for the Eagles while Olivia Fouty added six points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Freshman Jas’Mine Bracey led CMU with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Eastern Michigan limited Crystal Bradford, the Chippewas’ leading scorer at 15.4 points-per-game, to eight points on 3-of-13 shooting. It’s just the second time this season Bradford hasn’t reached a double-figure scoring total.

The Eagles put their MAC West lead to the test at MAC East-leading Bowling Green (15-3, 5-0) at 2 p.m. Sunday. The Falcons won their own first-place battle Thursday night, beating Miami (Ohio), 61-58.