In the de facto MAC West championship game, Central Michigan (22-6, 12-5) emerged victorious, winning a hard fought 85-77 victory over the Toledo Rockets (19-11, 11-6). The victory helps to set up a possible top 2 seed for the Chippewas in the upcoming MAC tournament, while the Rockets now need a win on Friday or help from other teams in order to hold onto their bye.
Toledo had no match for John Simons, who led the Chippewas with 28 points and 8 rebounds despite playing most of the game with three or more fouls. Central Michigan's offensive schemes often gave Simons good looks from beyond the arc, and he ultimately shot 8 for 12 from long range. Chris Fowler and Braylon Rayson were clutch in key supporting roles, contributing 24 and 21 points respectively.
Juice Brown led Toledo with 20 points, but it was his noteworthy absence throughout the game that was the real story. Brown sat out a good portion of the first half, and while he was on the court throughout the second, he only produced sparingly on the offensive end. Justin Drummond and Jonathan Williams contributed well throughout the game, and five Rockets finished the game in double figures.
Central Michigan had a dominant performance during the second half. Between Simons' three point shooting and Fowler's ability to draw fouls on penetration, the Chippewas were able to build a sizable lead on Toledo. The Rockets were able to remain in the game, with a Kurt Hall layup bringing them within 4 points at the 4:38 mark. Successive possessions, however, failed to amount in points for Toledo, and the Chippewas were able to salt the game away at the free throw line.
The first half was largely a back and forth affair. Toledo started strongly out of the gate, with their zone defense frustrating the CMU offense while scoring consistently on the other end of the court. However, the Rockets aggressiveness on the defensive end led to early foul trouble, and once the pressure let up the CMU threes started falling. Toledo had a ten point lead at one point in the half, but went into the locker room up only one.
Toledo lost despite absolutely dominating the Chippewas in the paint. The Chippewa frontcourt could not match the prowess of J.D. Weatherspoon and Justin Drummond, and Toledo totaled 12 offensive rebounds for the game. This contrasted with the tendency by Toledo to turn the ball over, as the Chippewa press wrecked havoc on yet another MAC offense. The Rockets ended the game with 13 turnovers, and more often then not, they were made to pay at the other end of the court.
While Simons, Fowler, and Rayson have continued to contribute for the Chippewas, coach Keno Davis has to be concerned with the lack of production from other players. Rayshawn Simmons did not score during the game, while sharpshooter Josh Kozinski was unable to get his game going, only making one three pointer on the night. The Chippewas will likely need one or both of them to step up in the event any of their stars go cold, which happened in a loss to NIU the previous Saturday.
Toledo next travels to Ypsilanti for a matchup with Rob Murphy's EMU squad, while Central Michigan will end its regular season against rival Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. Both games tip off Friday evening at 7 PM.
|Points||John Simons (28)||Julius Brown (20)|
|Rebounds||John Simons (8)||J.D. Weatherspoon (12)|
|Assists||Chris Fowler (7)||Two Tied (2)|
|Blocks||Three Tied (1)||Three Tied (1)|
|Steals||Two Tied (2)||Julius Brown (2)|