KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Kyle Randall hit 6-of-10 from three-point range but his attempt at the buzzer hit the front of the rim and Central Michigan fell to rival Western Michigan by three, 61-58.
Randall hit five three's in the first half, and added three free throws when he was fouled on a three-point attempt, and the Chippewas (11-19, 4-12 MAC) hit nine 9-of-16 as a team to take a 38-34 lead into the locker room.
The Broncos (19-11, 10-6 MAC), who clinched the West Division title earlier this week, led by 10 with 8:14 left in the half but Central was able to come within a possession over the next four minutes. They eventually tied the game at 30 with 2:42 remaining and went up as many as six in the final minute.
The threes continued to fall right out of the locker room as they extended their lead to nine in the first minute but a 13-0 run by the Broncos spoiled the advantage and put the Broncos back up eight with eight minutes to play.
The Chippewas were down five twice in the final three minutes. They responded once with three free throws by Hibbitts, and again with a three by Randall. Western's Nate Hutcheson countered with a three at 1:17 and a pair of free throws at 0:54 to keep Central at bay.
MAC TOURNAMENT BRACKET SET
CLEVELAND –The official pairings have been released for next week's 2013 FirstEnergy Mid-American Conference Men's Basketball Tournament. Central Michigan has earned the No. 9 seed and will travel to No. 8 Buffalo for a first-round matchup Monday night at 7:00. The winner advances to Cleveland on Wednesday.
The Chippewas' (11-19, 4-12) fate came down to the wire several times Saturday afternoon. A win at West Division champion Western Michigan (19-11, 10-6) today would have secured the ninth seed. Instead, a buzzer-beater that would have sent the game into overtime hit the front of the rim and made the Chippewas wait for the results of Northern Illinois (5-24, 3-13) at Ball State (15-14, 8-8) and Miami (8-21, 3-13) at Ohio (23-8, 14-2). Both underdogs gave the respective home teams a scare, but both favorites overcome late deficits to win by slim margins.
The Bulls (12-19, 7-9) finished fifth in the East Division and handed the Chippewas a 91-73 loss in Buffalo earlier this year despite 23 points by Kyle Randall and 17 off the bench by Blake Hibbitts. The all-time series is tied at 11 but the Bulls have won five of the last six.
The winner will face No. 5 Ball State at 6:30 Wednesday in Cleveland. Should the Chippewas advance, tickets will be available by phone through Ticket Central (1-888-FIRE-UP2).