JACKSONVILLE, Ala. - Central Michigan failed to secure the non-conference series sweep with Jacksonville State on Tuesday night, falling to the Gamecocks, 82-73, at Pete Mathews Coliseum. The Chippewas won the first meeting, 66-61, on November 30 in Mount Pleasant but JSU shot 54 percent from the field, including making 9-of-18 three-pointers, to claim the victory.
Despite the setback, several CMU players posted standout performances. Sophomore forward John Simons just missed notching a double-double, totaling 18 points and a game-high nine rebounds, while the team's leading scorer, Chris Fowler, added 17, just below his season average.
Austin Stewart and Austin Keel also contributed strong efforts. Stewart had 10 points and six rebounds while Keel tallied nine points, five rebounds and four assists.
Down 62-54 following a three-pointer by JSU's Avery Moore with 5:37 remaining, Central Michigan (6-5) clawed its way back into the game from the free throw line. DeAndray Buckley, Rayshawn Simmons and Stewart each went 2-for-2 from the line over the next 1:30, pulling the Chippewas to within two at 62-60.
But Jacksonville State was able to hit big shots down the stretch, outscoring CMU 13-4 to push its lead to double digits at 75-64 with just under one minute to play, effectively putting the game out of the Chippewas' reach.
Jacksonville State (5-8) raced out to an early 7-0 lead but CMU countered, tying the game at 9-9 on a Simmons layup and then taking its first lead of the game at 12-11 with a three-pointer from freshman Nick Carlos.
The teams traded baskets for much of the remainder of the first half, with momentum going back and forth fueled by five lead changes. The Gamecocks managed to gain the upper hand late in the half, however. After two free throws from Keel knotted the game at 27-27, JSU scored six unanswered points and took a 33-27 lead into the break.
Following halftime, CMU wasted no time getting back into the game, taking the lead at 41-39 on a three-pointer from Buckley, who finished the game with nine points, with 14:53 left to play. Central would stake its largest lead of the second half at three points at the 13:30 mark with a free throw by Keel but a 12-0 Jacksonville State run permanently turned the tide.
Moore, who did not play in the first meeting between the teams, led four Gamecocks in double figures with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including three three-pointers.
CMU was 7-of-20 (35%) from beyond the arc, with Simons accounting for five of the makes and narrowly outrebounded JSU, 32-31.
Central Michigan will return to action following the New Year, hosting Marygrove (0-12) on Friday, Jan. 3 (7 p.m.) in the Chippewas' final non-conference game of the 2013-14 season. CMU will open MAC play five days later, on Wednesday, Jan. 8 when it welcomes Miami (Ohio) (1-5) to McGuirk Arena for a 7 p.m. game.
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