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March 5, 2013

Chippewas get back-to-back wins with 61-59 victory

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Maybe it was senior night. Maybe it was Eastern Michigan. Something about the Eagles gets the most out of Olivier Mbaigoto, who scored 14 points to go with his team-high six rebounds and was key down the stretch in Central Michigan's 61-59 win over Eastern Michigan.

Mbaigoto's jumper at the right elbow from Chris Fowler with 1:19 left was the deciding factor in the two-point win-the second in a row for the Chippewas (11-18, 4-11 MAC). For Fowler, it was his 10th assist of the night and for Mbaigoto, it added on to his two defensive rebounds and a steal in the final five minutes of a one-possession game.

"This one took some big-time efforts by a lot of guys," said CMU head coach Keno Davis. "Kyle Randall continued to step up and make big shots. We couldn't have won it without (Mbaigoto) down the stretch. What can you say about a freshman who gets 10 assists to one turnover against Eastern's length and size? And I have to mention Finis Craddock who didn't score a whole lot but was there defensively when we needed the big stops."

After shooting 50 percent from the floor and holding the Eagles (14-16, 7-8 MAC) to 37 percent in the first half, things turned 180 degrees in the second. The Chippewas mustered just 33 percent shooting after the break while the Eagles shot at a 56 percent clip to erase a 33-24 CMU halftime lead.

Despite the Chippewas' inefficiency from the field and with the Eagles seemingly in control for much of the half, they led just once-after an 11-2 run gave them a 41-40 edge at the 12-minute media timeout.

Mbaigoto's and-one on the next possession returned the lead to the Chippewas who were able to fight through two more ties and hang on to close the home portion of the schedule with a win.

With just under a minute left, Eastern's Derek Thompson missed a three-pointer that was rebounded by Mbaigoto and allowed the Chippewas to wind down the clock. They missed a basket at the end of the shot clock and the rebound bounced off of Hibbitts out of bounds. The Eagles called a timeout with 19 seconds remaining to set up the game's final play but turned the ball over on the right baseline with 0.4 seconds on the clock. Fowler's half-court in-bounds pass was intercepted by Eastern and a half-court heave hit the left side of the backboard.

"We wanted to prevent a long three and we we wanted Finis to be the guy on the ball," said Davis. "We did a good job extending our defense and then we were able to switch the ball screen in the last four or five seconds to not give them an easy opportunity."

Outscored 34-16 in the paint, the Chippewas found their outside shot to be falling as they hit 7-of-14 from three-point range in the first half and added another pair of threes in the second.

Randall hit 6-of-11 from long range for 18 of his game-high 23 points. Blake Hibbitts joined Randall and Mbaigoto in double-digits with 13. Fowler, who entered the game as the country's second-leading freshman in assists per game, set a McGuirk Arena record with his 10 dishes and was charged with just one turnover.

In the meeting between these two teams earlier this season-a six-point EMU win- Mbaigoto recorded a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds.

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