A 1-for-4 start was a sign of things to come for the Chippewas (8-8, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) who found themselves down 5-0 in the first two minutes. They came back to take an 8-7 lead at 13:07 when Mbaigoto scored in the paint and Kyle Randall followed with a quick three after a turnover under the Chippewas' basket. Later, a tip-in by Mbaigoto off a long-range miss brought the Chippewas within one, 16-15, with just over six minutes to play in the half, but the Eagles (8-9, 1-2 MAC) wrapped up the final six minutes with a 14-4 run to go into the locker room up 30-19.
Mbaigoto shot 4-of-5 for nine points in the first half, but not much else was falling for Central, which shot just 7-of-20 (35%) from the field and 3-of-12 (25%) from long range. Eastern, meanwhile, converted 58 percent of its field goals and 83 percent of its three-point attempts while holding Central to its lowest halftime total of the year.
It was a 10-point game for much of the rest of the way and the Chippewas couldn't cut the deficit to single digits until the final minute. The rim in the second half got even tighter for Central which shot 30.8 percent from the floor, 21.4 percent from long range, and 66.7 percent from the line. Much of the Chippewas' shooting woes came from 11 Eastern Michigan blocks.
The Chippewas couldn't catch a break despite holding Eastern without a field goal for the final three minutes. The Eagles hit only 11 of 20 free throws during that span.
"I have to credit Eastern Michigan for controlling the tempo of the game," said CMU head coach Keno Davis. "They really did a good job of holding the ball and as a young team we got disrupted by what they did.
"We are a team built with guys who can shoot the ball. Before tonight, when we didn't shoot well we have been able to find other ways to win. There were so many plays that didn't go our way for one reason or another and it was always a 10-point game. If one of those plays goes our way, all of a sudden it's a five or six-point game and it's a ball game down the stretch."
In addition to Mbaigoto's career-high rebounding total and season-best scoring output, Finis Craddock knocked down 4-of-5 from beyond the arc for a season-high 12 points, and Kyle Randall added 13 points - 10 of which came in the second half.