Tuesday, December 17 • 8:45 p.m. ET
SETTING THE SCENE
Central Michigan will wrap up its longest road stretch of the season on Saturday when it meets Jacksonville State in a 8:45 p.m. ET game at Pete Mathews Coliseum. Saturday’s match-up is CMU’s final game in 2013. The Chippewas are 2-2 on the road this season while Jacksonville State is 3-1 at home. CMU will be back in action after the New Year, hosting Marygrove (0-12) at 7 p.m. on January 3. The Chippewas will open MAC play on January 8 when it welcomes Miami (Ohio) (1-5) to McGuirk Arena.
CMU-JACKSONVILLE STATE SERIES
Central Michigan is 1-0 all-time versus Jacksonville State, defeating the Gamecocks, 66-61, earlier this season on November 30 at McGuirk Arena. CMU is 3-0 versus Ohio Valley Conference teams this season, defeating Austin Peay (90-75) on November 21 and SIU Edwardsville (65-64) on December 7 in addition to JSU.
SOLID AT THE STRIPE
Central Michigan leads the Mid-American Conference and ranks 11th nationally in free throw percentage, shooting 76.8 percent (156-203). Austin Stewart (.933, 14-15), Blake Hibbitts (.917, 11-12), John Simons (.900, 18-20) and Rayshawn Simmons (.810, 17-) lead the Chippewas at the charity stripe. In CMU’s 90-75 win over Austin Peay on November 21, the Chippewas made 24-of-26 free throws (92.3%).
In each of its first three wins of the 2013 season, CMU lit up the scoreboard, posting 90 or more points. In their last three victories, the Chippewas showed they don’t necessarily need to be offensively prolific to win, claiming close victories while scoring in the 60s. Over the last two weeks, CMU has downed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on the road, 68-64, then beat Jacksonville State at home, 66-61, and topped SIU Edwardsville, 65-64, on the road.
Central Michigan is taking care of the basketball through its first 10 games. CMU is averaging just 10.2 turnovers per game, which ranks third in the MAC. The Chippewas also rank second in the conference and 28th in the NCAA in turnover margin (+4.0). Central Michigan is also ranked second in the MAC in assist/turnover ratio (1.2). Chris Fowler is second in the MAC with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.4 (51/21).
FOWLER PICKING UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Chris Fowler has shown in CMU’s first nine games that his standout freshman season was no fluke. Fowler currently leads CMU with 5.1 assists per game, which ranks second in the MAC. He is also second in the conference in scoring (17.2) and fourth in field goal percentage (.598). For his efforts, Fowler, who earned MVP honors of the Central Michigan Tournament earlier in November, was named to the MAC Team of the Month for November by collegehoopsdaily.com. In 2012-13, Fowler set the program record for a freshman with 176 assists, which also ranks third all-time in single season history, securing him a spot on the All-MAC Freshman team. A starter of all 31 games, Fowler also averaged 8.1 points and 5.7 assists per game and had a sterling 2.2 assist/turnover ratio in his first collegiate season.
CLUTCH WHEN IT’S CLOSE
Central Michigan has shown a knack for coming up with clutch plays in crunch time at the end of games, especially in its last three wins, which the Chippewas have claimed by a total of 10 points. Against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Blake Hibbitts knocked down a go-ahead three-pointer with 13 seconds remaining and Austin Keel made two free throws to secure the 68-64 win. Versus Jacksonville State, Hibbitts once again took center stage, hitting a key three-pointer and then sinking two free throws late to salt away a 66-61 victory. At SIU Edwardsville, Chris Fowler played the role of hero, hitting a game-winning shot with 6.2 seconds remaining.
SIMONS STARTS STRONG
John Simons has gotten off to a fast start to the 2013-14 with double-digit scoring performances in six of the first 10 games. Last year, he had just nine in 31 total games. In the season opener versus Manchester, he posted a career-high 27 points Manchester and the followed up with 14 at Bradley. He has scored in double figures in three straight games (15, 11, 10) entering the match-up with Jacksonville State. The sophomore also led CMU in rebounding in six of the 10 games this season. He ranks ninth in the MAC in rebounding (6.3) and 26th in scoring (11.1). By comparison, last year, Simons averaged 7.4 ppg and 4.9 rpg.
FRESHMEN MAKING EARLY IMPACT
The freshmen class has made an immediate impact through eight games of the 2013-14 season. Braylon Rayson has given Keno Davis not just key minutes off the bench to spell Chris Fowler at point guard but he has given the Chippewas another scoring threat. The Texas native is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 8.9 points per game. At the Central Michigan Tournament, Rayson scored a total of 43 points in three games, including a career-high 18 in a win over Austin Peay. Josh Kozinski (3.4 ppg) and Nick Carlos (1.7 ppg) have also seen extensive action, giving CMU two additional three-point scoring options.
In his first season as head coach at Central Michigan, Keno Davis became only the second coach in the program’s Division I era to win seven non-conference games and the first to do so in his first year at the helm. With six wins to this point and three non-conference games remaining, Davis could potentially top that mark in 2013-14.
SUCCESS IN THE CLASSROOM
Hard work has also paid off for the Chippewas in the classroom, as the team was one of only 19 NCAA Division I programs to receive the Team Academic Excellence Award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Only one of two Mid-American Conference teams to earn the honor, which is based on the academic standing during the 2012-13 season, the award recognizes outstanding academic achievement by a team with a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better. That success has continued this year as following the summer session 11 of the 13 scholarship players currently on the roster attained a 3.0 GPA or higher, including six that were above a 3.5.
CMU’S ROSTER IS HOME GROWN
Central Michigan’s current roster contains nine student-athletes who hail from the state of Michigan, which is more than any other Division I institution in the state, ranking ahead of Michigan State (7), Eastern Michigan (7), Western Michigan (7) and Michigan (2).
FATHER-SON COACHING TANDEMS
Keno and his father, Tom, are among the most successful father-son coaching duos in NCAA history. In 2008, Keno joined his father (Iowa, 1987) as the NCAA’s first father-son combination to capture national coach of the year awards. Dr. Tom compiled 597 wins over a 32-year career, and Keno has added 91 as the pair has combined for a 688-436 record and a 61.2 winning percentage, which ranks 11th among father-son combinations.
MEYER SIGNS WITH CHIPPEWAS
CMU has signed Luke Meyer, a 6-10, 205 forward from Addison High School, to a National Letter of Intent. He earned Class C first team all-state honors from the Associated Press and the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan as a junior last year, averaging 18.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.0 blocks. The Addison, Mich. native was also named to the Jackson Citizen Patriot Dream Team and was the Adrian Daily Telegram Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season.