Led by strong second half performances from Josh Kozinski and Chris Fowler, the Chippewas were able to overcome a poor first half and defeat Buffalo by a score of 75-74.
With half a minute remaining and the game tied, the Chippewas had the opportunity to win it at the end. Fowler was fouled by Lamonte Beardon while attempting to drive the lane, and was able to make the front end of the one and one. Xavier Ford was able to take the ball down the length of the court in the final seconds and get a shot off, but the ball bounced off the rim, giving the Chippewas the victory.
As has been typical this season, Fowler led Central Michigan (18-5, 8-4) with 22 points. Fowler was able to either get good looks from outside or drive the lane, and 8 of his points came from the charity stripe. Kozinski and Austin Stewart were the other Chippewas in double figures. The victory came in spite of a goose egg in the points column from junior John Simons, who is the second leading scorer on the team behind Fowler.
Buffalo (15-9, 6-6) had several noteworthy performances in a losing effort. The Bulls were led with 19 points from senior guard Jarryn Skeete, while Xavier Ford contributed a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. The Chippewas were able to largely limit opportunities for MAC POTY candidate Justin Moss, who only attempted 6 shots throughout the game.
Central Michigan got off to a quick start in the second half, with the sharpshooting Kozinski nailing triples on consecutive possessions to close the Buffalo lead to three points. A DaRohn Scott dunk brought the Chippewas within one, but a three point play by Ford on other other end stopped the Chippewa momentum. Buffalo would be able to hold onto their lead until another quick pair of triples from Kozinski gave the Chippewas the lead at the third media timeout.
Buffalo dominated the first half. The Bulls were able to effectively shut down the Chippewa long range game, and the Chippewas shot 38% from the field in the first half with only one three pointer made. On the other end of the court, the Bulls were also very effective on offense, shooting 56% from the field at the break. The first half featured a very active performance from the refs, and the teams combined for 25 fouls and 31 free throws in a half that was not overly physical.
Central Michigan has lived and died by their three point game all season, and their victory today was no exception. Kozinski, who had been mired in a bit of a cold slump, rediscovered his long range game at the beginning of the second half, and ultimately contributed 5 of CMU's 6 three pointers for the game.
One point of frustration for the Bulls was their inability to rebound the ball after free throws. On several occasions, a missed Chippewa free throw ended up back in the hands of a CMU player, and the additional points on those possessions made a vital difference in a close game.
Buffalo travels next to Ypsilanti as the Bulls battle Eastern Michigan, while the Chippewas return to the friendly confines of McGuirk Arena for a MAC West clash against Northern Illinois. Both games tip off at 7 pm this Wednesday.