Youngstown, Ohio- Central Michigan fell to Youngstown State, 86-75, in the 11th annual ESPN Bracket Buster. Freshman guard Chris Fowler scored a career high 19 points to lead the Chippewas.
The Penguins (16-12, 7-7 Horizon) jumped off to a quick start, leading by as much as 24 points in the first half. Youngstown State went on a 14-2 run over a span of four minutes. Fowler ended the run with a layup at the 14:02 mark on the half to bring the Chippewas (9-17, 2-10 MAC) within nine, 7-16.
Blake Allen led all scorers with 11 points at the half for the Penguins. Youngstown State shot 69 percent from the floor in the first half, including going 5-10 from the three-point line.
Senior guard Kyle Randall led Central Michigan at the half with eight points. Sophomore guard Austin Keel hit two three pointers in eight minutes of play during the first half. The Chippewas trailed at half, 27-45.
Central Michigan came out of the half and went on an 18-2 run, cutting the Penguins lead to eight with 14 minutes remaining, 45-53.
Allen answered quickly though for Youngstown State, making back-to-back three point baskets to put the Penguins back up by 12 points.
The Chippewas kept the game within single digits down the stretch thanks to 15-second half points by Fowler. Central Michigan cut the Youngstown advantage to seven with three minutes to go, but were unable to close further, falling by a final score of 75-86.
“I give our guys credit,” said Head Coach Keno Davis. “We didn’t look like ourselves for about 24 minutes tonight. We didn’t bring the talk, the execution, the intensity that we have had the majority of the season, but I like that we didn’t give up in this game and that we gave ourselves a chance.”
Fowler’s career high 19 points and five assists led the Chippewas. Randall finished with 17 points, scoring in double digits for the 24th time this season. Freshman forward John Simons had a new career high 16 points and grabbed four rebounds. Senior forward Olivier Mbaigoto led the team with six boards.
Kamren Belin and Allen led the Penguins with a game high 20 points. DJ Cole made a game high 12 assists to go along with his 12 points.
Central Michigan will be on the road on Wednesday, Feb. 27, against Ball State. The Chippewas defeated the Cardinals in McGuirk Arena on Jan. 19, 71-57.