The Central Michigan Chippewas took a 10 – 1 record from non-conference play into their MAC opener on Tuesday evening, with the intent to prove their doubters. Some may say their record is slightly inflated due to three wins over non-Division I opponents.
After Tuesday night’s game, the Chippewas showed they are a legitimate contender in the MAC.
The Chippewas went into Toledo, OH and knocked off the Rockets, 65 – 62, to quiet all of their doubters.
Toledo made things tough on the Chippewas, and both teams had a shot at coming away with a victory down the stretch.
Central Michigan took an early 4-point lead, less than 2 minutes into the game. Rayshawn Simmons recorded an early rebound and a lay-up to help give the Chippewas an early 4 – 0 lead.
Over the next eight-plus minutes, the teams would go back-and-forth. The score was tied on four different instances, and no team held a lead bigger than 3 points.
Thanks to a jumper from Stuckey Mosley, the Rockets took a 1-point lead at the 9:45 mark (17 – 16). They would stretch the lead to 5 points thanks to two made costless-throws Justin Drummond.
It would get stretched to six points on a jumper by Julius Brown, but the Chippewas wouldn’t go away quietly.
Central Michigan kept chipping away at the lead, and retook the lead at the 3:01 mark of the first half on a jumper from Rayshawn Simmons. Simons would go on to make two costless throws on the next Central Michigan possession.
However, the Chippewas couldn’t hold onto the lead as the first half came to a close, allowing Toledo to gain some momentum heading into the break. Justin Drummond made a lay-up, and Jonathan Williams made a three-pointer to give Toledo a slim 31 – 29 lead after the opening 20 minutes.
The second half was no different than the first, as the Chippewas and Rockets would go back-and-forth over the second stanza.
The teams would alternate baskets over the first five minutes of the game, as the game was tied three times in the opening few minutes of play. J.D. Weatherspoon helped Toledo regain the lead, and then stretch it to 5 points thanks to a lay-up at the 15:22 mark.
As the trend had been for the entire game, Central Michigan wouldn’t go away quietly.
Both Toledo and Central Michigan would continue to trade buckets, but the Chippewas were never able to grab the lead over the next five minutes of play. A three pointer from John Simons allowed Central Michigan to tie the game at 49-all, and then a Chris Fowler lay-up at the 8:29 mark gave the Chippewas the lead.
The lead would constantly change hands over the next couple of minutes. Jonathan Williams made a three-pointer for the Rockets to take the lead back, before Austin Stewart made a three-pointer of his own to give the lead back to Central Michigan.
From there, Toledo would go on a mini 8 – 1 run to take a 5-point lead with just over five minutes to play in the game. Strong costless throw shooting from the likes of Williams and Drummond, and a lay-up from Zach Garber gave the Rockets the five-point lead.
The Chippewas would hold the Rockets at 60 points over the next couple of minutes, allowing themselves to claw back into the game.
Rayshawn Simmons and Chris Fowler would make baskets on consecutive possessions for the Chippewas, and Simmons would make another lay-up with 1:58 left in the game to give Central Michigan a 62 – 60 lead.
Toledo’s Nathan Boothe would get fouled by Luke Meyer, sending the big man to the line with 1:30 left to play. He made both costless throws, and the game was all knotted up at 62.
From there, cue the heroics from John Simons.
Simons would make a three-pointer on the Chippewas’ next possession to give the team a 65 – 62 lead with 1:08 left to play.
The Rockets had two attempts at tying the game, but both Jonathan Williams and Julius Brown both missed long distance attempts.
Central Michigan went into Savage Arena in Toledo, OH, and left with a 65 – 62 victory over the Toledo Rockets.
The Central Michigan Chippewas (11 – 1, 1 – 0) were led by Rayshawn Simmons and Chris Fowler. Simmons scored a game-high 16 points to lead the Chippewas to victory. Simmons also recorded 6 rebounds and 5 assists in 34 minutes of floor time.
Fowler, the team’s leader in scoring on the season, recorded 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in 33 minutes of court time. Both Simmons and Fowler have been key factors in the Chippewas’ strong start to the season in 2014-15, and they will need to continue to be big producers as the season progresses.
Central Michigan hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2003, but Chippewa fans are hoping that this year is the year that they end their lengthy drought. Starting conference play with a win over the Toledo Rockets will likely go a long way for the team, in terms of confidence.
For the Rockets (8 – 6, 0 – 1), Justin Drummond led the way for the team, falling a rebound shy of a double-double. Drummond recorded 13 points and 9 rebounds, both team-highs, in a losing effort. Jonathan Williams recorded 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
The Chippewas held the Toledo big men to a combined 11 points. J.D. Weatherspoon and Nathan Boothe were a combined 3-of-7 from the floor, and were both relative non-factors on the offensive end of the floor.
While it is only January 6th, this game will likely play a factor in who wins the MAC at the end of the season. With both teams looking like top contenders for the conference title in 2014-15, having a loss on their record early could hurt some teams going forwards.
The Chippewas passed their first true test of the season, silencing their doubters for a few days anyways. Up next, the Chippewas go back on the road to take on the Ball State Cardinals on Saturday.
For the Rockets, they are looking to score their first conference win of the season in their next outing. They stay at the Savage Arena and welcome the Akron Zips to town on Friday.