First-year head coach Keno Davis' first competition in McGuirk provided an accurate depiction of the team he has assembled since April - one reliant on fast breaks, three-point shots and a high shooting percentage.
The Chippewas never trailed after the first two minutes of the game, but the Lakers hung with them until the last minutes.
"I thought we played extremely hard, the effort was there," said Davis. "Some of the things they did really disrupted us defensively. They had a really good game plan. Our guys adjusted well, but here in the first game you're trying not to do too much, just focus on some of the basics and play as deep a bench as you can."
Two layups by Saylor helped spur a 10-2 run that gave the Chippewas a 31-21 lead at the 8:49 mark but the Lakers were able to climb back within two five minutes later. Up just one, 41-40, with 1:12 left in the half, Austin Keel scored the final five points of the half, including a three at the buzzer, to send the Chippewas into the locker room up 46-40.
The Lakers kept their deficit to single digits for the first 10 minutes of the second half, until a 13-2 run by the Chippewas, during which they held the Lakers to one field goal over a six-minute span, gave CMU a 65-53 lead with 9:42 remaining.
A pair of free throws by Kyle Randall with 2:19 left match the Chippewas' largest lead at 15, but the Lakers scored six points in the next 1:08 to bring their deficit back to nine with 1:40 remaining.
Saylor's 17 points led four Chippewas who scored in double figures as Randall, Chris Fowler and Keel - the three starting guards - each scored 13.
Central shot 52 percent from the field, hitting exactly half of its first-half attempts and 55 percent in the second.
"After running and pressing for an entire game as a perimeter team, that's a really good number to take away."
At the line, however, the Chippewas took 32 attempts but converted just 66 percent, including 7-of-14 in the first half.
"Some of that could have been the first time being in front of a crowd. We are a good free throw shooting team; we will be a good free throw shooting team. Tonight we did not shoot well from the line.
"We had a lot of great things to take away tonight and maybe number one is that these percentages (at the line) don't count."
The regular season opens at Iowa on Monday.