Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
Strong Second Half Fuels CMU to 90-75 Win Over Austin Peay
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – The Central Michigan basketball team used hot second half shooting to dispatch visiting Austin Peay, 90-75, on Thursday night at McGuirk Arena. The contest was the first of three games in three days for the Chippewas as part of the 2013 Central Michigan Tournament.

Central Michigan (2-2) had four players score in double figures, led by sophomore forward Blake Hibbitts’ 19 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. Freshman guard Braylon Rayson sparked the Chippewas off the bench in the second half, scoring 16 of his total 18 points, including a stretch in which he netted 10 straight. Sophomore guard Rayshawn Simmons was active from beginning to end, pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds.

“Tonight, you look at us and a lot of areas we were impressive and yet I think the most positive thing about our team is there were a lot of areas where were weren’t and yet we were still able to win,” said CMU head coach Keno Davis. “We can continue to improve in those; we didn’t play our perfect game, but we played well enough. I think that if I were a fan coming to watch, I would say ‘I don’t know how good that team is but they work hard’ and I think as a coach, that’s what you’re the most proud of.”

CMU struggled from the field in the first half, shooting 26 percent, including connecting on just 2-of-18 three-point attempts. But clutch free throw shooting and excellent pressure defense helped the Chippewas maintain the advantage for much of game’s opening 20 minutes.

High energy on defense by CMU in the first half forced the Governors into 12 turnovers. Meanwhile, Central was getting to the foul line and taking full advantage, converting on all 19 of its attempts from the charity stripe, including a team-best 6-for-6 by sophomore guard Chris Fowler. Austin Peay was kept in the game partly by the three-point shooting of guard Cory Arentsen, who drained three in the first half.

Owners of a 39-33 halftime lead, CMU heated up quickly in the second half, making its first five shots out of the blocks, including three pointers by Hibbitts and sophomore forward John Simons. Less than four minutes into the half and the Chippewas lead had suddenly ballooned to 13 points at 52-39.

A Will Triggs lay-up at the 15:37 mark drew Austin Peay (2-2) within nine but that’s as close as the Governors would get. Back-to-back three pointers from freshman guard Josh Kozinski and Hibbitts then pushed the Chippewas lead to 15 at 58-43.

With 12:28 remaining, potential trouble arose for CMU when the floor general Fowler picked up his fourth foul of the game and was forced to the bench. But Braylon Rayson stepped in and stepped up, igniting the offense. Using his speed and quickness, the freshman scored on a lay-up, a jumper and two three pointers to push CMU’s lead to a game-high 19 at 70-51.

Austin Peay was able to whittle the CMU lead down to 12 with just over four minutes remaining but solid free throw shooting down the stretch secured the win for the Chippewas. CMU finished the day connecting on 24-of-26 free throws (92%).

Central shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, including making 6-of-9 three pointers (66%) and outrebounded its opponent for the second straight game, pulling down 36, including 18 on the offensive end, as compared to 33 for Austin Peay. The Chippewas finished the game with an impressive 19-to-8 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Guard Travis Betran led Austin Peay with 16 points while Triggs and guard Zavion Williams added 12 and 10, respectively. The Governors committed a total of 18 turnovers for the game and got to the foul line just 11 times, making eight.

The Chippewas will be back in tournament action on Friday night when they take on Montana State at 7 p.m. at McGuirk Arena. The Bobcats fell to Cal State Northridge in the tournament opener in a thriller, 74-73.

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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