Wednesday, January 8 • 7 p.m.
For an insiders look at the 2013-14 Chippewas, click here to view the Central Michigan Men’s Basketball MAC Guide. Find feature stories, coach and player bios, videos and much more.
• Central Michigan will open MAC play on Wednesday evening when it hosts Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m. in McGuirk Arena.
• The Chippewas wrapped up the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 7-5 record, punctuated by a 127-44 rout of Marygove on January 3.
• CMU possesses a 19-22 record all-time in MAC openers.
• CMU is 5-2 at home this season while Miami (Ohio) is 1-6 on the road.
• The Chippewas will continue conference action on Saturday when it travels to face Toledo (12-1) in a 6 p.m. contest at the Rockets’ Savage Arena.
CMU-MIAMI (OHIO) SERIES
• Central Michigan owns an 18-48 all-time record versus Miami (Ohio) is a series that dates back to 1973.
• CMU is 2-4 versus the RedHawks in MAC openers, last facing MU to begin the conference season in 2005-06.
• A year ago, the Chippewas fell to Miami in the teams’ only meeting, a 70-61 setback in McGuirk Arena.
In the Chippewas’ 127-44 rout of Marygrove in the non-conference finale, CMU broke the program record for largest margin of victory and tied the mark for most points in the game. The 83-point margin of victory easily topped the previous high of 71, set in a 107-36 win over Hillsdale on February 28, 1963. The Chippewas also reached the127-point milestone in a victory over Oakland on December 3, 1987. Individually, five players established new career highs in scoring, led by freshman guard Braylon Rayson, who tallied a game-high 27 points. Rayson’s point total was just four shy of the McGuirk Arena record of 31, set by Kyle Randall in 2013.
SOLID AT THE STRIPE
Central Michigan leads the Mid-American Conference and ranks ninth nationally in free throw percentage, shooting 76.9 percent (193-251). Austin Stewart (.957, 22-23), Blake Hibbitts (.917, 11-12), Rayshawn Simmons (.821, 23-28) and Austin Keel (.821, 23-28) 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 four wins this season, CMU has lit up the scoreboard, posting 90 or more points. In a span of three victories in late November, the Chippewas showed they don’t necessarily need to be offensively prolific to win, claiming close victories while scoring in the 60s. In late November-early December, CMU 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 12 games. CMU is averaging just 9.7 turnovers per game, which ranks first in the MAC. The Chippewas also rank No. 1 in the MAC in turnover margin (+4.7) and second in assist/turnover ratio (1.3). Chris Fowler is tied for second in the MAC with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.3 (62/27).
FOWLER PICKING UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Chris Fowler has shown in CMU’s first 12 games that his standout freshman season was no fluke. The sophomore sensation is the MAC’s third-leading scorer, averaging 16.5 points per game, ranks tied for second in assist/turnover ratio (2.3) and is third in assists (5.2/g). The MVP of the Central Michigan Tournament, he has scored in double figures in nine games, including six 20-point efforts, and has led the team in scoring in six games. 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 showed a knack for coming up with clutch plays in crunch time at the end of games early on in 2013-14. In a stretch of three games, the Chippewas claimed wins 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 MAKING KEY CONTRIBUTIONS
In addition to Chris Fowler, John Simons has been key to CMU’s fortunes thus far in the 2013-14 season. The sophomore forward has recorded double-digit scoring performances in eight of 13 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 five straight games (15, 11, 10, 18, 15) entering the match-up with Miami. The sophomore has also led CMU in rebounding in seven of the 13 games this season. He ranks 10th in the MAC in rebounding (6.3) and 17th in scoring (12.0). By comparison, Simons averaged 7.4 ppg and 4.9 rpg last season.
RAYSON MAKING AN IMPACT
While several members of the freshman class have made an immediate impact this season, none has been as sizeable as the one made by Braylon Rayson. The speedy and cat-quick 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 third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.7 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. Versus Marygrove, Rayson went off for a career-high 27, shooting 69 percent from the field.
With the 127-44 victory over Marygrove, CMU finished the non-conference portion of its schedule with seven wins for the second consecutive year. In 2012-13, in his first season 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.
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 fall term, a record 10 student-athletes posted above a 3.0 grade point average during the fall term. Blake Hibbitts led the way with a 4.0 while senior forward Zach Saylor (3.50), sophomore guard Austin Stewart (3.48) and Fowler (3.44) also had strong academic semesters.
CMU WINS HOME TOURNAMENT
CMU captured the title at its home tournament in late November, scoring 90 points in wins over Austin Peay and Cal State Northridge to keep the championship trophy in Mount Pleasant. Chris Fowler earned tournament MVP honors while Blake Hibbitts was named to the all-tournament team. Braylon Rayson was also key to the claiming the title, scoring 43 points in three games.
HEALTH HAS BEEN KEY
Key to CMU’s early season success has been continuity, as head coach Keno Davis has been able to use the same starting line-up (Stewart, Keel, Fowler, Hibbitts, Simons) in all 12 games. Important reserve players Rayshawn Simmons and Braylon Rayson have also manage to maintain their roles in the rotation, contributing a combined 39 minutes per game.
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 92 as the pair has combined for a 689-437 record and a 61.1 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.