MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Central Michigan showed a killer instinct and received an all-around balanced effort as it led from start to finish in a 55-52 win over first-place Eastern Michigan.
The Chippewas (8-17, 3-9 Mid-American Conference) clicked from the very beginning as they opened the second round of MAC West play with an 8-1 lead before allowing the Eagles (11-15, 6-6 MAC) their first field goal at the 13:45 mark.
When Eastern came within four, Central hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers to quickly extend its lead to 11, and the advantage remained near double-digits for most of the half despite a dry spell that lasted just short of five minutes.
The Eagles scored the last four points of the half to cut the Chippewas' advantage to four, 24-20, and struck first in the second period to come within two. Up just one with 11:54 remaining, the Chippewas went on a 10-1 run that included six straight points by Austin McBroom to return their lead to double-digits, 42-32, at the 7:53 mark. Eastern came within six on several occasions afterward, and hit a three with two seconds remaining to cap the scoring, but Central was able to prevent the long scoring runs that had plagued them during a nine-game losing streak.
"Our guys did a heck of a job persevering and fighting through (this skid)," said CMU head coach Ernie Zeigler. "We've been through a really tough, tough stretch, and here at home in particular. In these last three home outings prior to night, we've been right there, especially in the last three minutes of those games. We just haven't been coming through. ...(Tonight) is just a really good team victory."
Nine Chippewas recorded a field goal and all 11 grabbed at least one rebound as Central shot 47 percent from the floor, its highest since a league-opening win over Toledo, and out-rebounded Eastern by 13, 36-23, for its greatest advantage since the season opener over Ferris State.
"These tough guys persevered and it is a really good win for us," said Zeigler, "hopefully something that can be a springboard for us as we head down the stretch."
McBroom, who scored a team-high 14 points, recorded all three of the Chippewas' free throws. All 10 of the team's attempts came in the second half, due in large part to 6-of-13 three-point shooting before the break, and four came in the final 40 seconds.
"I was trying to be really aggressive and make big plays. There's a couple guys on our team who can make big plays, and it just ended up being my night," McBroom said. "We have a lot of guys who can score. Everybody came through tonight and it was a team win."
Trey Zeigler also scored in double-figures, notching 11 points and coming one rebound shy of a double-double, and tallying a career-high four blocks.
The Eagles entered the contest atop the MAC West standings and ranked first in scoring defense.