MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Central Michigan secured its home tournament title with a 90-76 win over Cal State Northridge on Saturday night. The Chippewas went 2-1 over the course of the three-day tourney, scoring 90 points in each of their victories.
"It was a great win for us and it's nice to be able to go on the road off the tournament," said CMU head coach Keno Davis. "I think, overall, our performance I would characterize as having great work ethic and effort. We didn't always make the right plays, but we are learning and coaches can overlook some of the shortcomings if we have effort and we have attitude. There is no doubt that our team isn't short in either area."
Consistent shooting buoyed CMU's efforts against the Matadors, making 14-of-25 shots in each half (56 percent). Tournament MVP Chris Fowler was not to be denied in the finale, scoring a game-high 25 points, including 17 in the second half. Three other Chippewas hit double digits including 15 from John Simons and 10 each from Blake Hibbitts, who was also named to the all-tournament team, and Braylon Rayson.
Cal State Northridge (3-3) started fast, jumping out to a 9-2 lead with just over three minutes off the clock. At the 11:30 mark, the Matadors pushed their advantage to nine points at 17-8 on a layup by Aaron Parks. CMU responded and then never looked back.
The Chippewas embarked a 14-0 run, sparked by seven points from Fowler, to build a five-point lead at 22-17. Three pointers on four consecutive possessions, two from Josh Kozinski and two from Simons, upped that advantage to 10 at 36-26 with 3:38 left to play in the half. CMU finished the half strong, including a three-pointer from Hibbitts as time dwindled down, and took a 44-32 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Central Michigan (3-3) came out firing from the break raining down threes, netting four from four different players to increase its lead to 20 at 59-39 less than five minutes into the second half.
CSUN didn't make a shot from the field for nearly six minutes but managed to not let the game get completely out-of-hand by getting to the foul line. The Matadors scored 12 straight points from the charity stripe before a tip-in by Stephan Hicks with 8:34 remaining ended the stretch.
Meanwhile, Fowler was taking the game over, putting the Chippewas on his back down the stretch. With Cal State Northridge applying pressure to try to force turnovers, he generated points by driving to the bucket for layups and by getting to the foul line. Fowler scored 10 straight for CMU, six off layups and four off free throws. He finished the game making 9-of-10 foul shots.
After DeAndray Buckley made two free throws and Hibbitts downed a jumper, a three pointer from Fowler with 3:50 remaining was a dagger to CSUN, pushing the Chippewas lead to 17 at 82-65.
With a sizeable lead and with CMU making its free throws late in the game, Cal State Northridge never had the opportunity to mount a comeback and the Chippewas took the game and the tournament crown.
Hicks led Cal State Northridge with 22 points while Parks added 17 and Stephen Maxwell chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds. Hicks and Maxwell were named to the all-tournament team.
The Chippewas will head back on the road next week, traveling to face Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3-3) on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. ET at the Islanders' American Bank Center. CMU will return home on Saturday, Nov. 30, hosting Jacksonville State (1-5) in a 7 p.m. contest in McGuirk Arena.
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