An Austin Stewart tip-in off a missed jumper from Chris Fowler proved to be the difference in a tight contest, as Central Michigan eked out a victory over Northern Illinois by a final score of 68-66.
Central Michigan (19-5, 9-4) led for nearly the entire game, but slowly lost ground to the Huskies over the course of the second half, with a three pointer from Travon Baker finally tying the game with a minute left. Stewart, however, was able to score his tip-in with only 3 seconds left, and an ensuing NIU effort failed to result in points, handing the Chippewas the victory.
Northern Illinois (10-14, 4-9) was led by 19 points from Aaric Armstead in a losing effort. Armstead was at times the only Huskie showing any offensive prowess, and his shooting performance from beyond the arc kept NIU in the game throughout the second half. Jordan Threloff was another bright spot for the Huskies, tallying 15 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double. The Huskies needed big performances from their starters, as the NIU bench contributed only 2 points.
CMU was led by sophomore guard Braylon Rayson, who finally had the scoring outburst that has eluded him for so long this season. Rayson scored 23 points on 7 for 10 shooting, and started the game a perfect 6 for 6 from beyond the arc. He was also stellar on the defensive end, tallying 5 steals and saving a key ball late in the game.
Rayson's performance helped make up for an uncharacteristically poor game from Fowler, who tallied only 10 points with 8 turnovers. Fowler looked completely mystified by NIU's defense, and was largely unable to get either separation or penetration on possessions. However, he was sometimes able to find open scorers on the wings, and finished the game with a respectable 8 assists.
It was all Chippewas in the first half. Rayson came out firing, and NIU had no answer on other end of the court. By the first TV timeout, the Chippewas had taken a 14-3 lead. While NIU was eventually able to even things out a bit, Central Michigan went into the locker room up by 11.
One noteworthy aspect of the game was the incredible tightness in which both teams were subject to by the officials. NIU finished the game with 3 players that had four fouls, and both teams spent a large chunk of the second half in the double bonus. Ultimately, the two teams combined for 40 fouls, leading to a much slower paced game then either team was used to.
Northern Illinois returns home on Saturday to face Eastern Michigan, while the Chippewas look for revenge against a reeling Ball State squad that hasn't won since beating CMU on January 10th. The Chippewas will look to set the program record for most three pointers in a season on Saturday, while Chris Fowler is closing in on the program record for most career assists.
|Points||B. Rayson (23)||Aaric Armstead (19)|
|Rebounds||A. Stewart (6)||J. Threloff (11)|
|Assists||C. Fowler (8)||Aaron Armstead (2)|
|Blocks||J. Simons (1)||All Tied (0)|
|Steals||B. Rayson (5)||T. Baker & A. Johnson (2)|