The Central Michigan Chippewas really needed a win today that would qualify as their first in two areas. It would be their first win this season against a Mid-American Conference foe and their first outside of their Mount Pleasant, Mich. home, McGuirk Arena.
After giving up 99 points in their MAC opener against Eastern Michigan, head coach Keno Davis knew that the Chippewas' defense would need to step up to get that win. Today against BGSU, the defense held the Falcons in check and helped earn a 79-67 victory at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Bowling Green struggled shooting from the field for much of the game, particularly in the first half. The Falcons often had to settle for jump shots rather than direct assaults on the basket, and the result was an uncharacteristic 11-for-30 performance in the first half. The Falcons recovered late, after CMU had built a double-digit lead, but by then it was too late.
Another important factor for the Chippewa defense was neutralizing Zack Denny. They were very successful in keeping Denny in check, limiting him to just two attempts from beyond the arc and only 2-for-9 from the field overall. He scored a season-low five points; it was only the fourth time in 15 games he had failed to score in double figures.
On offense, the Central Michigan starting lineup was magnificent. Those five accounted for 76 of CMU's 79 points and were led by Braylon Rayson. Rayson dropped 27 on the Falcons and shot 9-for-13 from the floor, and that included five triples in eight attempts. John Simons earned a double-double with 12 points and ten rebounds, and Chris Fowler drew near a triple-double by posting 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Rayshawn Simmons added 17 points, while Luke Meyer found the basket on three of four field goals for six points. Josh Kozinksi's second-half three-pointer was the only bench points of the afternoon for CMU.
Rayson opened the game with a trey and scored again one minute later to help Central Michigan build a quick 7-0 lead. Bowling Green responded with an 11-2 run capped by a three from Spencer Parker for an 11-9 Falcons' edge.
The lead flipped twice before BGSU used a brief 7-2 spurt to take their biggest lead of the game, 22-17, after a Parker conversion on the fast break. The bucket took place with 8:44 left in the half, and the Falcons did not make another for the next 7:30.
The Falcons lost the lead when Simons drilled a three with 4:17 to play in the first half, and CMU never let them get it back. BGSU did make some free throws late in the half and one more field goal, a layup by David Joseph with 1:14 remaining, but the Chippewas claimed a 33-30 lead at halftime.
The first ten minutes of the second half saw little change. The Falcons managed to tie the score twice and were otherwise able to stay close to the Chippewas. Just before the midway point, BGSU trailed only 46-42 and Rayson still had just nine points.
Then, with 9:59 left in the game, Rayson nailed a three and it was his show from that point forward. He scored 18 of CMU's final 33 points, including four bombs from downtown. Back-to-back threes from Rayson followed by a three and a pair of free throws by Simons propelled Central Michigan on an 11-2 run that gave them a 57-44 lead. That would be all the space they needed, as BGSU did not get within nine points after that.
For BGSU, Parker was the leading scorer with 15 points on 14 field goal attempts. Rasheed Worrell had an excellent game and gave the Falcons 13 points and six rebounds. Denny ended the contest with eight boards despite his five point effort. Antwon Lillard and Demajeo Wiggins had nine and eight points, respectively, off the bench.
CMU (8-7, 1-1 MAC) returns to McGuirk on Tuesday, Jan. 12 for a huge game with the Akron Zips. They'll follow that with a pair of road contests at Buffalo and Northern Illinois.
BGSU (10-5, 1-1 MAC) plays at Ohio on Tuesday night and at Eastern Michigan next Saturday. They'll return home on Jan. 19 for the Battle of I-75 with Toledo.