SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Central Michigan found a way to win a low-scoring affair between two young teams, fending off Wright State to hand the Raiders their first loss of the season, 59-55, in the first game of the Utah Thanksgiving Tournament.
An 8-0 run gave the Chippewas (2-1) their first lead, 15-13, just past the midway point of the half, and it sparked an 11-2 run that kept the Raiders (3-1) without a field goal for over seven minutes. They were able to stretch their lead to as many as eight before halftime on 46 percent shooting, and didn't trail the rest of the way.
Up as many as 10 on several occasions, as late as the 5:00 mark, the Chippewas saw their lead diminish to just two with 27 seconds left as they were held without a field goal in the last 5:23. The Raiders' press caused the Chippewas to turn the ball over on the in-bounds pass under the Raiders' basket, but freshman Blake Hibbitts came up with a big block on a layup that would have tied the game. Derrick Richardson, another true freshman, knocked down two free throws at the other end to seal the win with four seconds left.
Typically a three-point shooting team, the Chippewas found another way to win on a night they recorded the fewest three-point attempts of the season (2-of-14) and matched their season-low field goal percentage (40 percent). Instead, they had success inside, scoring 16 of their 27 first-half points from the paint and attempting just six long-range shots. Ten of Randall's 13 points in the half came on layups and he accounted for the team's only three-point bucket before the break. The second half was much of the same as Hibbitts added the only three and Central found 20 points under the basket.
On the night, the Chippewas outscored the Raiders 36-22 in the paint and outworked them on the boards, 40-29, including 13-6 on the offensive glass which led to a 15-5 advantage on second-chance points. They also got to the line more, 18 times to the Raiders' 12.
Kyle Randall was the only Chippewa in double figures as all 10 players scored, including Hibbitts who added eight points and five others who had six. Zach Saylor blocked four shots - three in the first half - and Randall dished out a team-high four assists. Miles Dixon led three Raiders in double-figure scoring with 16 points.
The Chippewas will have the day off Thursday in preparation for back-to-back games on Friday (Utah) and Saturday (Idaho State).
Keno Davis Postgame Quotes"There were so many big-time plays for us. We had a lot of opportunities down the stretch. With a young team you have to find ways to win, and we made enough big plays to win it. Our guys will enjoy Thanksgiving a little more than had we lost that in the last few seconds."
"It was a nice step forward to beat a Wright State team that had three wins, that had two road wins already. This isn't quite a true road win yet, it's a neutral win, but I'll take it."
On freshman Derrick Richardson's two free throws
"That was big for us. We're still learning what we have with this team - who will make the big shots, who will make the big free throws, who can we throw it in to. DJ might not have been that guy coming in but he hit a couple clutch ones and didn't seem to be phased. He wasn't phased at Iowa either. We are very fortunate to have him."
On the +11 rebounding advantage
"However good we can become this year will come down to rebounding. With us being under-sized but having shooters and quickness, if we can outrebound teams we will have a chance each and every night. Coming off the last game I wasn't sure if we would be ready this year to rebound."
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