The Central Michigan Chippewas were favored by nine points over UT-Martin Skyhawks out of the Ohio Valley Conference, prior to the game according to oddsmakers, but it was UT-Martin that walked off McGuirk Arena with the three-point victory, by a final score of 76-73.
#3MU did all they could to live up to their nickname. The Chippewas fired 43 three-pointers on the night, compared to the Skyhawks' 24. However, the game went back and forth for the entire 40 minutes, despite this lopsided statistic.
Initially, UT-Martin turned the tables on Central Michigan with the deep ball. Of the Skyhakws' first 19 points, 15 were off of three-pointers. UT-Martin's Alex Anderson played a huge role in leading his team to the victory, by making five three-pointers in the entire game.
Braylon Rayson proved to be Central Michigan's best player of the night. The junior guard from Dallas exploded for 24 points , leading all total scorers, and made six treys, good enough to lead both teams in this category. He played all but one minute, and also grabbed eight boards.
The Chippewa defense struggled mightily the whole game.
Offensive boards were a constant for the Skyhawks, turning into a good number of easy putbacks for their big men like Javier Martinez. Central Michigan was beat on the glass by a ratio of 39 to 33, which doesn't tell the whole story. Nine of the 39 rebounds gathered by UT-Martin were offensive, all of which were converted into points.
After a closely contested first half, the Skyhawks went into the locker with a 34-33 lead. UT-Martin went on a 7-2 run to start the second half, only to be barraged by a pair of three-pointers by Rayson and Josh Kozinski, respectively. Within the next three minutes of game time, Central Michigan hit another pair of treys to start a CMU rally. This time, it was Braylon Rayson and John Simons on the right end of those shots.
It seemed as though every shot made by the Chippewas was negated by a corresponding basket by the Skyhawks. The back-and-forth nature of the game frustrated Central Michigan fans, who had suffered through two consecutive close losses.
The game was tied by a clutch Josh Kozinski three-pointer with 3:28 to go, and it felt like the momentum was in favor of the home team.
Another three by Kozinski gave Central Michigan a 73-71 lead, which was immediately wiped out by a three from UT-Martin's Alex Anderson with 0:45 seconds remaining.
The Chippewas drained the clock to 0:21 seconds, when Rayson drove to the hoop. He was stopped by a whistle, however, for a traveling violation. It was at this point where all hope was thought to be lost for Central Michigan. They were forced to foul the Skyhawks' best free throw shooter, Alex Anderson (84% on the season), who drained both free throws. The lead was now extended to 76-73.
With 15 seconds left, the Chippewas inbounded the ball, eventually leading to a wild Josh Kozinski three-pointer with :06 seconds left that fell short.
UT-Martin nearly gave the game away when the ball bounced off of Alex Anderson in a fight for the ball with Rayson, giving the Chips the ball in a wild turn of events, with :03 seconds left.
Central Michigan was forced to pass the ball in from an incredibly awkward spot, in front of the own bench at the corner of the baseline. Chris Fowler passed the ball to fellow senior John Simons in a crowded area. Simons chucked up a three-pointer that did not seem to cleanly leave his hand, and fell short.
The Chippewas' season came to an end, along with the collegiate careers of Rayshawn Simmons, John Simons, Austin Stewart, and Chris Fowler.
The Chippewas took an astonishing amount of threes, and they even made history, albeit in a losing effort.
The 43 3-point attempts by Central Michigan tonight is a school record.— Nate Schneider (@natejschneider) March 17, 2016
After the game, Coach Keno Davis stated that the school-record amount of attempted treys was "not exactly a part of the gameplan" and rued several missed opportunities and pivotal mistakes.
The Chippewas will look to regroup for the 2016-2017 season, and will be relying on Braylon Rayson to lead the charge at 2 guard next season, while Youngstown State transfer Marcus Keene and Warren De La Salle HS's Kevin McKay will each look to get their touches at 1 and 2.
The UT-Martin Skyhawks, meanwhile, look forward to seeing who their next opponent and if they will travel after CIT restructures its second round.