Friday, January 3 • 7 p.m.
Central Michigan | Marygrove
• Central Michigan will wrap up the non-conference portion of its 2013-14 schedule on Friday night when it hosts Marygrove in a 7 p.m. contest at McGuirk Arena.
• The Chippewas will be in action for the first time since a 82-73 road loss to Jacksonville State on December 17.
• CMU is looking to secure seven non-conference wins for the second consecutive season.
• CMU is 3-2 at home this season while Marygrove is 0-9 on the road.
• The Chippewas will begin MAC play on Wednesday, Jan. 8 when they welcome Miami (Ohio) to Mount Pleasant for a 7 p.m. game. They will then take to the road for conference match-ups at Toledo (Jan. 11) and at Bowling Green (Jan. 15).
• Central Michigan has never faced Marygrove in program history.
• Marygrove is an NAIA school located in Detroit that plays in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference.
SOLID AT THE STRIPE
Central Michigan leads the Mid-American Conference and ranks ninth nationally in free throw percentage, shooting 76.4 percent (172-225). Austin Stewart (.947, 18-19), Blake Hibbitts (.917, 11-12) and Rayshawn Simmons (.826, 19-23) lead the Chippewas at the charity stripe. In CMU’s 90-75 win over Austin Peay on November 21, the Chippewas made 24-of-26 free throws (92.3%).
In each of its first three wins of the 2013 season, CMU lit up the scoreboard, posting 90 or more points. In their last three victories, the Chippewas showed they don’t necessarily need to be offensively prolific to win, claiming close victories while scoring in the 60s. In late November-early December, CMU downed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on the road, 68-64, then beat Jacksonville State at home, 66-61, and topped SIU Edwardsville, 65-64, on the road.
Central Michigan is taking care of the basketball through its first 11 games. CMU is averaging just 10.1 turnovers per game, which ranks second in the MAC. The Chippewas also rank second in the MAC in assist/turnover ratio (1.2) and third in turnover margin (+3.5). Chris Fowler is fourth in the MAC with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.1 (55/26).
FOWLER PICKING UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Chris Fowler has shown in CMU’s first 11 games that his standout freshman season was no fluke. The sophomore sensation is the MAC’s third-leading scorer, averaging 17.2 points per game, and ranks third in assists (5.0/g) and fourth in assist/turnover ratio (2.1). The MVP of the Central Michigan Tournament, he has scored in double figures in nine games, including six 20-point efforts, and has led the team in scoring in six games. 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.
CLUTCH WHEN IT’S CLOSE
Central Michigan has shown a knack for coming up with clutch plays in crunch time at the end of games, especially in its last three wins, which the Chippewas have claimed 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.
SIMONS STARTS STRONG
John Simons has gotten off to a fast start to the 2013-14 with double-digit scoring performances in seven of the first 10 games. Last year, he had just nine in 31 total games. In the season opener versus Manchester, he posted a career-high 27 points Manchester and the followed up with 14 at Bradley. He has scored in double figures in four straight games (15, 11, 10, 18) entering the match-up with Marygrove. The sophomore has also led CMU in rebounding in seven of the 11 games this season. He ranks 10th in the MAC in rebounding (6.5) and 20th in scoring (11.1). By comparison, Simons averaged 7.4 ppg and 4.9 rpg last season.
FRESHMEN MAKING AN IMPACT
The freshman class has made an impact through the first 1/3 of the 2013-14 season. Braylon Rayson has given Keno Davis not just key minutes off the bench to spell Chris Fowler at point guard but he has given the Chippewas another scoring threat. The Texas native is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 8.1 points per game. At the Central Michigan Tournament, Rayson scored a total of 43 points in three games, including a career-high 18 in a win over Austin Peay. Josh Kozinski (3.0 ppg) and Nick Carlos (1.8 ppg) have also seen extensive action, giving CMU two additional three-point scoring options.
In his first season as head coach 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. With six non-conference wins this season, Davis will look to equal that mark against Marygrove.
SUCCESS IN THE CLASSROOM
Hard work has also 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.
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.
HEALTH HAS BEEN KEY
Key to CMU’s early season success has been continuity, as head coach Keno Davis has been able to use the same starting line-up (Stewart, Keel, Fowler, Hibbitts, Simons) in all 11 games. Important reserve players Rayshawn Simmons and Braylon Rayson have also manage to maintain their roles in the rotation.
CMU’S ROSTER IS HOME GROWN
Central Michigan’s current roster contains nine student-athletes who hail from the state of Michigan, which is more than any other Division I institution in the state, ranking ahead of Michigan State (7), Eastern Michigan (7), Western Michigan (7) and Michigan (2).
FATHER-SON COACHING TANDEMS
Keno and his father, Tom, are among the most successful father-son coaching duos in NCAA history. In 2008, Keno joined his father (Iowa, 1987) as the NCAA’s first father-son combination to capture national coach of the year awards. Dr. Tom compiled 597 wins over a 32-year career, and Keno has added 91 as the pair has combined for a 688-437 record and a 61.1 winning percentage, which ranks 11th among father-son combinations.
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.