MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Chris Fowler established a new Central Michigan record for assists in a freshman season, and Kyle Randall poured in 28 points for his fifth straight 20-point game, but the Chippewas couldn't hang with Ohio for all 40 minutes as the Bobcats came away with an 82-63 victory.
The Chippewas (9-15, 2-9 MAC) stayed within striking distance for 30 minutes against last year's Sweet 16 participants, but a 14-2 run after that gave the Bobcats (18-6, 9-1 MAC) their ninth league win.
A layup by Randall with 13:46 left brought the Chippewas within six, 51-45, but the Bobcats responded with seven straight points to take a 13-point lead into the next media timeout. Fowler hit a pair of free throws after the break but Central was stuck at 47 points for the next four minutes while Ohio rattled off another four points to put the game out of reach.
"We knew we had a tall task ahead of us with a very good Ohio team who was a second or two away from the Elite Eight last year," said CMU head coach Keno Davis. "Over the last week or so we have seen the very best of what the MAC is all about and what we need to be, not only for future years but for this year."
Neither team established a double-digit advantage in the first half, and the Chippewas were within two points until a fade-away desperation jumper on the baseline fell at the buzzer for the Bobcats to give them a 35-31 halftime lead.
Fowler recorded assists on both of Central's first two baskets to set the new mark in his 24th game, bettering Dirk Dunbar's 1972-73 record of 115 by two games. Fowler ended the night with seven assists and just three turnovers to maintain his 2-to-1 ratio which leads all MAC freshmen.
Randall shot 8-of-18 from the floor and 10-of-13 from the line accounting for half of the Chippewas' three-point field goals and two-thirds of their free throws. John Simons grabbed seven of the team's first nine rebounds and added four in the second half for a career-best 11.
Additional postgame quotes from Davis:
"Until the very end it didn't feel like the game was completely out of reach. We felt that if we knocked down some shots we would have had a better chance in the end but it got away from us in the last six or seven minutes. I wouldn't expect any less from our guys. We haven't given up at any point this season and that is only going to help us. When you see that kind of effort night in and night out it gives you high aspirations for the future."
"We gave up way too many layups in transition. If we can take out those 10 or 15 baskets then the whole game changes. Our half court defense was much improved. Our transition defense was not. Some were turnovers, careless passes, and some were just not being able to get back on the team that runs the most on you in the conference. Ohio runs the best fast break we've seen."