Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
CMU’s Cold Start to Second Half Leads to 79-70 Setback to Buffalo
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - After a highly-competitive opening 20 minutes, Central Michigan’s slow start to the second half proved too much to overcome in the latter stages of the game and the Chippewas fell to Buffalo, 79-70, on Saturday night in McGuirk Arena.

Sophomore guard Chris Fowler and sophomore forward Blake Hibbitts each scored 17 points to lead CMU. Fowler also added five assists, four rebounds and two steals while Hibbitts had four rebounds and two blocks to go along with his point total. Austin Stewart was active from opening tip to final horn, tying a career high by posting 15 points, including 13 in the first half.

Buffalo (13-7, 8-3 MAC) used a strong inside presence to gain the upper hand over CMU, outscoring the Chippewas, 42-24, in the paint, and outrebounding the home team, 40-27. Senior forward Javon McCrea headlined the Bulls, recording a double-double (25 points, 20 rebounds). CMU settled for outside shots for much of the game, with a season-high 35 of its 59 attempts coming from beyond the arc.

The first half featured eight ties and eight lead changes. Down 8-3 early on, the Chippewas fought back, sparked by a Hibbitts’ three-pointer. Fowler stole the ball on the ensuing UB possession and took it coast-to-coast for a layup, evening the game at 8-8. After a Buffalo missed three-pointer, Fowler drove to the hoop, scored and was fouled. He made the free throw, giving CMU what would prove to be its largest lead of the game at 11-8.

Following two made free throws by Stewart and with a 13-10 lead, Buffalo took control, downing three-consecutive three-pointers to move ahead 19-13. CMU again responded, fashion an 8-0 run, comprised of a Nick Carlos layup, a three-point play by Stewart and a trey from Hibbitts, putting the Chippewas back in front, 21-19.

Over the next six minutes, the teams traded baskets resulting in six ties, including at 32-32 following a fast break layup by Fowler. Buffalo gained a slight advantage over the half’s last three minutes, outscoring CMU, 7-4, to head to the break with a 39-36 lead.

Central Michigan (8-14, 1-9 MAC) would go 3:23 into the second half before getting on the scoreboard, with Chris Fowler ending the drought with a three-pointer. Still, at that point, the Chippewas were down just three at 42-39. But the Bulls would then heat up and CMU would go cold from the field, as Buffalo embarked on a 20-5 run to build a 62-44 lead with 7:45 remaining in the game.

CMU was able to chip away at the Buffalo advantage, getting the deficit down to 11 at 68-57 with a three-pointer from Hibbitts at the 3:35 mark. A Rayson trey and a Hibbitts jumper further cut into the Bulls’ lead and with 1:49 remaining the Chippewas found themselves down just seven at 69-62. However, that’s as close as CMU would get, despite a late-game flurry of scoring including Hibbitts fifth three-pointer of the game, a John Simons layup and a three-point play by Keel. Buffalo made its free throws down the stretch to keep CMU at bay and secure the win.

After making 8-of-9 free throws in the first half, CMU was only able to get to the line five times in the second half, making two. The Chippewas, though, were able to turn 11 Buffalo turnovers into 22 points.

Buffalo’s Shannon Evans came off the bench to score 19 points while Jarod Oldham (11) and Joshua Freelove (10) also reached double digits.

The Chippewas are on the road next week for two games, traveling to face Northern Illinois (10-11, 4-5 MAC) on Wednesday, Feb. 12 (8 p.m. ET) and Kent State (12-11, 3-7 MAC) on Saturday, February 15 (7 p.m.).

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.

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