OXFORD, Ohio - Central Michigan once again fought hard to the final horn in Wednesday evening's MAC road match-up with Miami (Ohio) but the RedHawks' inside presence and free throw shooting down the stretch proved to be too much and the Chippewas fell, 86-80.
Sophomore guard Chris Fowler headlined a balanced CMU scoring attack, recording a team-high 19 points while adding six assists and five rebounds. Junior guard Austin Keel came off the bench to lead three other Chippewas in double figures, scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Junior forward John Simons topped CMU with eight rebounds to go along with 11 points.
Miami (7-9, 3-2 MAC) scored 40 of its 86 points in the paint, highlighted by a game-high 22 points from forward Will Felder, who connected on 10-of-13 shots. The RedHawks made 15-of-19 free throws for the game, including five consecutive late in the game after CMU has pulled to within six points at 78-72 with 1:13 remaining.
Central Michigan (7-10, 0-5 MAC) shot poorly in the first half, making just 8-of-26 attempts, while Miami was knocking down baskets at a 50 percent clip, including sinking 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. But, the Chippewas were able to keep it close by getting to the line and making nine free throws.
CMU started fast, building an early 6-2 advantage on layups by Simons and Austin Stewart and a floater by Fowler. The Chippewas never lead again in the first half but tied the game on three occasions, including at 14-14 on two free throws from Keel.
Miami was able to put together two seven-point leads but each time CMU responded. Down 27-20, a Keel three-pointer and another Fowler floater brought the Chippewas back within two. After the RedHawks constructed a 32-25 lead, capped off by a dunk by Felder, Keel sunk a free throw and Hibbitts drained a three-pointer at the first half buzzer and CMU headed to the break down just three.
In the second half, once again, CMU started hot, getting a jumper from Stewart and a layup and two free throws from Rayson to retake the lead at 35-32. After Stewart scored on a fast break layup to make the score 40-36, Miami regained the upper hand, embarking on an 8-0 run. But a DeAndray Buckley three-pointer ended the spurt and minutes later two free throws gave the Chippewas the lead back at 47-46.
After Miami scored four straight, marking the final lead change of the game, a trey from Blake Hibbitts knotted the game at 50-50. From that point, Miami was able to establish momentum and control of the game. But as has become trademark for the 2013-14 Chippewas, they would not make it easy.
Each time the RedHawks created some space on the scoreboard, CMU would rally. After Miami went up 68-57, a Simons three-pointer and a Fowler basket got the Chippewas back within six. Trailing by 12, its largest deficit of the game with 1:41 remaining, back-to-back three's by Rayson and Simons again made it a two-possession game. But CMU couldn't hit baskets and Miami made its foul shots, sealing the Chippewas' fate.
Miami shot a sizzling 68 percent (19-of-28) from the field in the second half and 59 percent for the game. After a cold start, CMU shot 59 percent in the second half to finish the game at 46 percent.
The Chippewas return home this weekend, hosting Akron (12-6, 4-1 MAC) on Saturday in a 7 p.m. game at McGuirk Arena. The Zips defeated Eastern Michigan, 78-68, on Wednesday night in Ypsilanti.
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