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November 30, 2013
CMU tops Jacksonville State 66-61
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Central Michigan shot 60 percent from the field and had a plus-seven advantage in rebounding but had to hold off visiting Jacksonville State late to claim a 66-61 win, the Chippewas third consecutive, on Saturday night at McGuirk Arena.
Chris Fowler led three Chippewas in double figures, scoring a game-high 21 points. The sophomore guard shot 73 percent from the field and made 5-of-7 free throws. Freshman guard Braylon Rayson added 11 while sophomore forward John Simons had 10 points.
Blake Hibbitts pulled down a team-high five rebounds in addition to scoring eight points, including nailing a clutch three-pointer late for the second straight game.
Up 56-53, when just three-plus minutes earlier Central Michigan (5-3) had a 14-point lead, Hibbitts halted an 11-0 Jacksonville State run with a three-pointer at the 3:45 mark and swung the momentum back in the Chippewas' favor. The sophomore forward also sunk two free throws with five seconds remaining to seal the CMU victory, its fourth at home in the month of November.
Hibbitts was also the hero late in Tuesday's win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, draining a trey with 13 seconds left to give CMU the lead for good.
Runs by both the Chippewas and the Gamecocks marked the first half. After back-and-forth play early on resulted in a 7-6 JSU lead, unanswered buckets by Fowler, Rayshawn Simmons and Nick Carlos, gave CMU some breathing room at 12-7. Jacksonville State (3-6) responded with an 8-0 stretch, which included two three-pointers from Darion Rackley, to go up 15-12 with 9:14 remaining before the break.
Down 18-16, Central Michigan broke out with a 9-0 run to forge its largest lead of the game to that point at 25-18. A Rayson jumper, a three-pointer by Simons and two buckets by Fowler accounted for the CMU scoring. JSU was able to whittle the Chippewa advantage to two points with over a minute to play but a Fowler layup gave CMU a halftime lead of 29-25.
CMU shot hot out of the break and quickly upped its lead to 10 at 40-30, getting scores from five different players, capped off by a layup by DeAndray Buckley with 15:57 to play.
For the next nine minutes, CMU maintained its advantage and even increased it to a game-high 14 points with a Rayson three-pointer with 7:09 remaining.
But Jacksonville State would not go quietly and an 11-0 run had the Gamecocks right back into the game at 56-53 with 3:59 on the clock. That's when Hibbitts took center stage and connected on his key three-pointer. Fowler was also pivotal down the stretch, hitting a jumper and sinking two free throws to keep JSU at bay in the final minutes.
"We knew that Jacksonville State coming in was going to be a pretty talented team coming from the Ohio Valley Conference," said CMU head coach Keno Davis. "They may have a more talented team than they have had in a while and I am very proud of our team to be able to tough out that win when the momentum seemed to be in the last few minutes all in their direction."
CMU outrebounded Jacksonville State, 26-19, including a 19-11 advantage on the defensive end. The Chippewas shot a season-low 11 free throws but made eight (73%).
Rackley and Rico Sanders led Jacksonville State with 10 points each.
CMU will be back on the court one week from today, traveling to face SIU Edwardsville (1-6) for an 8 p.m. ET game on Saturday, Dec. 7. The Chippewas' meeting with the Cougars will be the first in program history.
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