Chris Fowler was one of few high points in a heartbreaking loss to rival Western Michigan on Saturday, scoring a career-high 27 points.
CMU trailed at WMU by as many as 23 points in the first-half before mounting a second-half comeback that eventually gave the Chippewas a one-point lead late in the game.
The Chippewas lost composure down the stretch and were handed their eighth straight Mid-American Conference loss.
Fowler was a major factor in the Chippewas second-half rally, scoring 14 of his 27 points in the last half. CMU shot 8-of-16 from 3-point range after halftime.
Fowler was a perfect 13-for-13 from the free-throw line. Three of his assists led to made 3-point attempts.
CMU fans in attendance Saturday held their collective breath when Fowler hit the hardwood face-first with 2:37 remaining in the game. He laid on the court bleeding for several moments and had to leave the game to get bandaged.
“I was going to give him some time on the bench after that,” said CMU coach Keno Davis. “He said ‘no coach … I’ve got to shoot my free-throws.’”
Freshman Braylon Rayson shot the ensuing free throws, and Fowler checked back into the game at the next whistle.
“That’s Chris Fowler,” Davis said. “It was more than a little nick. There was a lot of blood when I got out there. He’s a tough guy.”
Davis said Saturday’s loss to WMU would not have been as close if Fowler missed the rest of the game.
“In a game like this, we did not need Chris Fowler for 34 or 35 minutes of the game,” he said. “We needed him for 40.”
WMU coach Steve Hawkins told the Kalamazoo Gazette Fowler became tough to handle for the Broncos in the second half.
“Coming into the game, he was the leading scorer in the MAC and had hit eight threes the entire year,” Hawkins said. “It’s not like you have to find him a 3-point line. You have to give him and all of them a ton of credit.”
Fowler’s first bucket after re-entering the game was a 3-pointer, which cut the Broncos lead to five points with less than eight minutes remaining.
After a WMU turnover coming out of a timeout, Fowler was fouled on a breakaway attempt.
He hit both free throws and gave CMU it’s first lead 69-68 with 2:30 to go.
“You are starting to see this kind of thing from Chris all the time,” Davis said. “We aren’t as deep as I thought we would be at this point in the season.”
Rayson was forced to foul a WMU shooter on the next trip down the court and the Broncos retook the lead, which they held until the final buzzer.
“Nothing would surprise me with this team,” Davis said. “We could win five or four games in a row or we could lose a few more in a row. We are at that level where we’ve got a chance to do something special.”
As for Fowler, Davis is confident his leading-scorer and point guard did everything he could to knock off the Broncos.
“He will continue to get better just like the rest of this team,” Davis said. “Today though, he gave us everything he had out there.”