MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Trey Zeigler paced Central Michigan with a game-high 22 points as the Chippewas downed Western Michigan, 76-70, to take possession of the Michigan MAC trophy for the second time in three years.
A three-pointer by Austin Richie gave the Broncos (12-19, 6-10 MAC) a 67-60 lead with less than seven minutes remaining, but it was their last field goal of the game as the Chippewas (10-20, 5-11 MAC) responded with a 12-0 run that gave them a 72-67 lead with 1:48 left on the clock.
"I am just really satisfied and pleased with our guys," said head coach Ernie Zeigler. "There were so many times that we could have buckled, especially with how sluggish we started, but our guys were resilient. Even when we got down 67-60 in the second, there was just a great effort and focus in wanting to win this game. This is a great win for us heading into the MAC Tournament."
The Chippewas dug themselves a 9-0 hole in the first four minutes of the game and found themselves down 15-5, their largest deficit of the contest, at the 13:18 mark.
They fought back late in the period with a 10-3 run to tie the game at 26 with 4:41 left and tied it twice more before going into halftime down three, 36-33.
"It is great to have the best record against the other MAC Michigan schools," Zeigler said. "In our state it is all about competition and while we would have rather been cutting down the nets tonight for a MAC championship, we knew we were playing for something. This was for supremacy in the state. To send our seniors Andre (Coimbra) and Nick (Jordan) out like this was special for us. We hope to build on this as we move forward."
Zeigler added eight rebounds, a pair of assists and three steals to his seventh 20-point game of the season, while the Chippewas combined for 14 assists and only eight turnovers. Half of the assists came from point guard Austin McBroom, who also contributed 14 points and six rebounds, and Derek Jackson chipped in another 14 points, four assists and three steals. Jackson moved into a tie for fifth place on the Chippewas' single-season steals list (54, Melvin McLaughlin, 1982-83).
Olivier Mbaigoto pulled down a career-high 11 board as Central out-rebounded Western, 40-34.
The Chippewas ended the regular season with wins in two of their last three games and will visit either Bowling Green or Eastern Michigan Monday in the first round of the MAC Tournament.