KENT, Ohio – Central Michigan rallied from a double-digit deficit to take a second half lead but ultimately couldn’t hold on to complete the season sweep of Kent State, dropping a hard fought 83-75 decision to the Golden Flashes on Saturday evening at the M.A.C. Center in Kent, Ohio.
Chris Fowler scored a game-high 19 points to accompany five steals, four assists and four rebounds to lead the Chippewas. He was clutch from the free throw line, making 9-of-11 attempts. Blake Hibbitts hit four of CMU’s seven three-pointers to account for his 12 points while Braylon Rayson tallied 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field and from the line. John Simons used a late flurry to breach the double-figure barrier, finishing with 11 points.
After being outrebounded by 20 in its loss to Northern Illinois on Wednesday, CMU bounced back to earn a 29-26 advantage versus Kent State, highlighted by a plus-eight margin on the offensive boards (14-6). The effort was a team one, as nine Chippewas had at least one rebound, led by a team-high four by Fowler, Simons and Rayshawn Simmons.
Shooting woes was the story in the first half for CMU, as the Chippewas struggled to find good looks at the basket, making just 9-of-29 attempts from the field. Central managed to keep the game tight early on, though, tying the Golden Flashes at 7-7 on a Zach Saylor bucket and at 12-12 on a Nick Carlos three-pointer. But a 16-3 run swung the momentum in Kent State’s favor for the remainder of the half and provided the Golden Flashes with their largest lead of the game at 13 at 28-15.
Central Michigan (8-16, 1-11 MAC) was able to get within nine of Kent State at 35-26 before the break on a triple by Hibbitts, setting the stage for the Chippewas’ second half comeback.
Rayson and Fowler triggered the rally on Kent State’s first possession of the second half, as Rayson stole the ball and passed it to a breaking Fowler for an easy layup. After a Darren Goodson jumper that made the score 37-28, CMU broke out with a 13-2 run. Hibbitts was key to the comeback, draining two three-pointers including one at the 13:55 mark which gave the Chippewas their first lead since early on in the first half at 41-39.
Kent State recaptured the lead using the three ball, getting five triples over the next six-plus minutes, including three from Kris Brewer. With 6:25 remaining, the Golden Flashes’ lead was back at 11 at 61-50.
As has become trademark of the 2013-14 Chippewas, they fought to the end but could not no closer than nine points at 65-56, thanks to another three from Hibbitts at the 3:55 mark. Kent State sewed the game up at the line, making seven free throws down the stretch.
After its poor offensive start to the game, CMU finished shooting 44 percent for the game, thanks to a 56 percent (17-of-30) second half effort. However, Kent State made 63 percent of its shots (31-of-49), nearly equaling its performance at the free throw line (66%).
Kent State (14-11, 5-7 MAC) was led by Chris Ortiz, who scored a career-high 17 points. He played a major role in hampering CMU’s comeback bid, hitting on all three of his three-points attempts. Kellon Thomas also posted 17, leading three others in double digits.
The Chippewas return home next week for two games, hosting Ball State (4-18, 1-10 MAC) on Wednesday, Feb. 19 (7 p.m.) and Northern Illinois (11-12, 5-6 MAC) on Saturday, Feb. 23 (2 p.m.) in McGuirk Arena.
Central Michigan men’s basketball is on Twitter. Follow head coach Keno Davis (@CoachKenoDavis) and the program’s official Twitter account (@CMUMensBBall) to get insider news and information and team updates. The Chippewas are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CMUMensBBall.