Wednesday, Feb. 26 • 7 p.m.
For an insiders look at the 2013-14 Chippewas, click HERE to view the Central Michigan Men’s Basketball MAC Guide. Find feature stories, coach and player bios, videos and much more.
• Central Michigan will put its two-game conference winning streak on the line on Wednesday when it faces MAC West rival Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti.
• On Saturday, CMU avenged a 25-point road loss to NIU on Feb. 12, edging the Huskies, 70-67 , at McGuirk Arena.
• Eastern Michigan is coming off a 75-67 road loss to Western Michigan.
• CMU is 2-10 on the road this season while Eastern Michigan owns an 11-3 home record.
• The Chippewas remain on the road this weekend, visiting Muncie, Ind. for a 7 p.m. Saturday match-up with Ball State. CMU topped the Cardinals at home, 101-95, in 3OT on Feb. 19.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN-EASTERN MICHIGAN SERIES
• Central Michigan has more wins against Eastern Michigan (95) than any other team in program history, possessing a 95-86 overall record.
• CMU dropped the first meeting this season, 72-59, at McGuirk Arena on Jan. 18.
EASTERN MICHIGAN SCOUTING REPORT
• Eastern Michigan enters Wednesday’s contest on a two-game losing streak, falling at NIU, 61-59, in OT on Feb. 20 and at Western Michigan, 75-67, on Feb. 23.
• Two of EMU’s three home losses this season have come in MAC play (versus Akron and Ohio).
• Eastern Michigan leads the nation in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a 36.4 percent shooting average.
• The Eagles lead the MAC in turnover margin (+3.6) and steals (8.6) but are ranked near or at the bottom of the conference in assists (11th, 10.7), rebounding defense (12th, 39.1), free throw percentage (10th, .668) and field goal percentage (10th, .416).
• Karrington Ward (12.4 ppg) headlines a group of three EMU players who average double figures in scoring and is also the team’s top rebounder (6.6 rpg).
• Da’Shonte Riley (4.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) leads the MAC in blocked shots, averaging 3.0 per game.
Central Michigan’s roster is dominated by youth, as 11 of 14 players are underclassmen (freshmen or sophomores). The Chippewas’ starting line-up is comprised of four sophomores and one freshman. Of the total 5,300 minutes played by CMU this season, 4,578 or 86 percent have been logged by underclassmen while 88 percent (1,707-1,940)of the team’s points have come from either a freshman or sophomore.
Central Michigan is taking care of the basketball this season. CMU is averaging 10.5 turnovers per game, which ranks first in the MAC. The Chippewas are second in the conference in turnover margin (+3.5) and fourth in assist/turnover ratio (1.1). Individually, Chris Fowler ranks second in the MAC with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.0 (139/69). Versus Ball State, Fowler totaled 12 assists and had just one turnover.
FOWLER IN THE RECORD BOOK
With seven assists versus Northern Illinois on Feb. 12, sophomore guard Chris Fowler not only entered the top 10 but moved into eighth place on the Central Michigan career assists list, surpassing Ryan Jansen (286) (1994-98), Melvin McLaughlin (288) (1980-83)and Tony Browne (290) (2002-05). In just 57 career games, all starts, Fowler has totaled 315 assists for a 5.5 per game average. He is on pace to shatter the CMU all-time record, held by Giordan Watson (2005-08) with 489.
Fowler’s 2013-14 assist total also has him in the record book for the second consecutive year. His 139 assist ranks him eighth all-time. Fowler is already ranked third after his 176-assist season in 2012-13.
With three steals versus NIU on Feb. 23, he moved into a tie for ninth place on the CMU single season list with 51. With five assured games remaining on the schedule, Fowler needs 13 to break the record of 63 held by Dave Grauzer (1978-79).
FOWLER LEADS CMU
Chris Fowler continues to demonstrate that he is one of the top players in the MAC. The sophomore point guard is the conference’s third-leading scorer, averaging 17.8 points per game and ranks second in assist/turnover ratio (2.0) and third in assists (5.3). In conference play, he ranks No. 2 in scoring (19.0). The MVP of the Central Michigan Tournament, he has scored in double figures in 23 games, including 10 20-point efforts, and has led the team in scoring in 15 games. In the win over Ball State, Fowler notched his first career double-double, tallying 18 points and 12 assists.
In 2012-13, Fowler set the program record for a freshman with 176 assists, which also ranks third all-time in single season history, securing him a spot on the All-MAC Freshman team. A starter of all 31 games, Fowler also averaged 8.1 points and 5.7 assists per game and had a sterling 2.2 assist/turnover ratio in his first collegiate season.
SIMONS MAKING KEY CONTRIBUTIONS
In addition to Chris Fowler, John Simons has been key to CMU’s fortunes thus far in the 2013-14 season. The sophomore forward has recorded double-digit scoring performances in 16 of 26 games. Last year, he had just nine in 31 total games. In the season opener versus Manchester, he posted a career-high 27 points. In CMU’s first conference win over Kent State, Simons notched a double-double, totaling 22 points and 11 assists.
Simons has scored in double figures in 12 of the last 18 games entering the match-up with Eastern Michigan. The sophomore has also led CMU in rebounding in 14 of the 26 games this season. He ranks 17th in the MAC in rebounding (5.7) and 26th in scoring (10.8). By comparison, Simons averaged 7.4 ppg and 4.9 rpg last season.
HIBBITTS FOR 3
Sophomore forward Blake Hibbitts has established himself as one of the MAC’s top three-point sharpshooters during his short time at Central Michigan.
Currently, he leads the Chippewas and ranks third in the conference with 56 triples. With 123 career three-pointers (in 57 games), he needs just seven to break into the top 10 in the CMU record book. He also sits just outside of the season top 10 in three-pointers made and attempted.
In 2012, Hibbitts attempted 185 three-pointers, which ranks tied for sixth in program history, making a team-high 67, placing him in a tie for ninth in the record book.
RAYSON MAKING AN IMPACT
While several members of the freshman class have earned playing time this season, none has made as sizeable an impact as Braylon Rayson. The speedy and cat-quick Rayson has given Keno Davis another solid starter in the back court and a legitimate scoring threat. The Texas native is tied for second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.8 points per game. At the Central Michigan Tournament, Rayson came off the bench to score a total of 43 points in three games, including 18 in a win over Austin Peay. Versus Marygrove, Rayson went off for 27, shooting 69 percent from the field. In the win over Ball State, he scored a career-high 30 points, including 13 of CMU’s 16 points in triple overtime, just one shy of the McGuirk Arena record of 31, set by Kyle Randall in 2013.
With at least five games remaining in the 2013-14 season, Rayson needs 21 points to break into the CMU single season freshman scoring rankings.
In the Chippewas’ 127-44 rout of Marygrove in the non-conference finale, CMU broke the program record for largest margin of victory and tied the mark for most points in the game. The 83-point margin of victory easily topped the previous high of 71, set in a 107-36 win over Hillsdale on February 28, 1963. The Chippewas also reached the 127-point milestone in a victory over Oakland on December 3, 1987. Individually, five players established new career highs in scoring, led by freshman guard Braylon Rayson, who tallied a game-high 27 points.
With the 127-44 victory over Marygrove, CMU finished the non-conference portion of its schedule with seven wins for the second consecutive year. In 2012-13, in his first season at Central Michigan, Keno Davis became only the second coach in the program’s Division I era to win seven non-conference games and the first to do so in his first year at the helm.
CMU WINS HOME TOURNAMENT
CMU captured the title at its home tournament in late November, scoring 90 points in wins over Austin Peay and Cal State Northridge to keep the championship trophy in Mount Pleasant. Chris Fowler earned tournament MVP honors while Blake Hibbitts was named to the all-tournament team. Braylon Rayson was also key to the claiming the title, scoring 43 points in three games.
CLUTCH WHEN IT’S CLOSE
Central Michigan showed a knack for coming up with clutch plays in crunch time at the end of games early on in 2013-14. In a stretch of three games, the Chippewas claimed wins by a total of 10 points. Against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Blake Hibbitts knocked down a go-ahead three-pointer with 13 seconds remaining and Austin Keel made two free throws to secure the 68-64 win. Versus Jacksonville State, Hibbitts once again took center stage, hitting a key three-pointer and then sinking two free throws late to salt away a 66-61 victory. At SIU Edwardsville, Chris Fowler played the role of hero, hitting a game-winning shot with 6.2 seconds remaining.
That trend has re-emerged in MAC play, as all three of CMU’s conference wins have come down-to-the-wire. In the Kent State win, Rayshawn Simmons scored seven points in OT to life CMU to its first conference victory. Against Ball State, Hibbitts hit three three-pointers in the final 22 seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime. Braylon Rayson then scored 13 of CMU’s 16 points in triple overtime to secure the win. Versus NIU, Simmons made five key free throws late, as CMU held off a late Huskies charge to earn a three-point win.
SUCCESS IN THE CLASSROOM
Hard work has paid off for the Chippewas in the classroom, as the team was one of only 19 NCAA Division I programs to receive the Team Academic Excellence Award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Only one of two Mid-American Conference teams to earn the honor, which is based on the academic standing during the 2012-13 season, the award recognizes outstanding academic achievement by a team with a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better. That success has continued this year as following the fall term, a record 10 student-athletes posted above a 3.0 grade point average during the fall term. Blake Hibbitts led the way with a 4.0 while senior forward Zach Saylor (3.50), sophomore guard Austin Stewart (3.48) and Fowler (3.44) also had strong academic semesters.
Fowler, Hibbitts and Simons were also nominees for CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-America recognition.
FOWLER A CANDIDATE FOR ALLSTATE NABC GOOD WORKS TEAM
Sophomore guard Chris Fowler is a candidate for the Allstate NABC Good Works Team, an honor that recognizes student-athletes who make outstanding contributions in the areas of volunteerism and civic involvement and embody the true spirit of “teamwork” and “giving back.”
The sophomore sensation is the MAC’s third-leading scorer, third-leading scorer, averaging 18.0 points per game and ranks second in assist/turnover ratio (2.0) and third in assists (5.2). The MVP of the Central Michigan Tournament, he has scored in double figures in 22 games, including 10 20-point efforts, and has led the team in scoring in 15 games.
Fowler embodies the definition of a true student-athlete, as the excellence he has achieved on the basketball court is equaled by his accomplishments in the classroom. Fowler possesses a 3.43 cumulative GPA, including two semesters in which he averaged above a 3.50. During the fall of 2012, he was honored on the Dean’s List.
Despite the number of demands placed on a student-athlete, Fowler makes the time to take part in various community service activities. He worked with the Special OIympics basketball team last December, putting the athletes through drills while providing pointers on how to improve. He also volunteered with Meals on Wheels during the holidays, delivering food to at-risk seniors.
MEYER SIGNS WITH CHIPPEWAS
CMU has signed Luke Meyer, a 6-10, 205 forward from Addison High School, to a National Letter of Intent. He earned Class C first team all-state honors from the Associated Press and the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan as a junior last year, averaging 18.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.0 blocks. The Addison, Mich. native was also named to the Jackson Citizen Patriot Dream Team and was the Adrian Daily Telegram Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season.