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January 11, 2014

CMU battles but falls to Toledo in MAC road opener

TOLEDO, Ohio - Central Michigan remained within striking distance of Toledo throughout its MAC road opener, but ultimately couldn't close the gap and fell, 86-71, on Saturday evening at the Rockets' Savage Arena.

Sophomore guard Chris Fowler once again headlined CMU, scoring a game-high 21 points to go along with a team-best eight rebounds. Braylon Rayson came off the bench to tally 15 points, including hitting three of the Chippewas' five three-pointers for the game. John Simons also reached double-digits in scoring, posting 10.

Central Michigan (7-7, 0-2 MAC) shot 44 percent from the field but struggled from beyond the arc, making just 5-of-21 attempts (23.8%). Turnovers also proved problematic, as the Chippewas totaled 12.

CMU hung tough throughout the first half, leading twice and never trailing by more than nine points. The Chippewas shot 42 percent and outrebounded the Rockets but were hampered by eight turnovers and 57 percent shooting from the free throw line.

Consecutive buckets by Fowler, Simons and Rayshawn Simmons gave CMU its second lead of the half at 15-14 with 9:47 remaining, but Toledo answered back with a 9-0 run to gain the upper hand. A Blake Hibbitts jumper pulled the Chippewas to within three points at 30-27 with 1:39 left to play, but the Rockets scored the final five points of the half to take an eight-point lead to the break.

Toledo started the second half fast, stretching its lead to 13 at 42-29 by the 16:30 mark. CMU responded to cut the Rockets advantage to 10 on a three-pointer by Simons, starting a trend that would continue throughout the half. Toledo would expand its lead to a game-high 16 points with 8:55 to play on free throws by Jordan Lauf but the Chippewas refused to go quietly, holding on until it made a decisive move with under five minutes remaining.

With the score at 68-57, Rayson started the rally by completing a three-point play. Fowler followed it up with a layup to get CMU within six points of Toledo at the 4:13 mark. But the Rockets responded with a 7-0 run and never looked back to claim their first conference win of the season.

Julius Brown lead Toledo (13-2, 1-1 MAC) with 15 points while J.D. Weatherspoon and Rian Pearson contributed 14 each. The Rockets had the edge in rebounding, 31-29, and recorded assists on 23 of their 28 field goals.

The Chippewas will remain on the road next week, traveling to face Bowling Green (6-8) in a 7 p.m. game on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at the Falcons' Stroh Center.

Stick to ChippewaCOuntry for the latest in CMU athletics and recruiting

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