Men's basketball scares rival Western Michigan with comeback effort, falls short 75-72

Kyle Wilson | Staff Photographer CMU sophomore Chris Fowler sets up a play saturday night in McGurki arena. Fowler finished with 20 points before fouling out late in the second half.

KALAMAZOO, MI — One word came to Keno Davis' mind to describe the men's basketball team's first-half play Saturday: scared.

Afterward, he said "overwhelmed" better described Central Michigan's first half that ended trailing 42-25  to Western Michigan. The Chippewas lost to their rival Broncos, 75-72.

"We didn't respond real well to start off that game," Davis said. "We looked scared (in the first half). Maybe scared isn't the right word, we were disrupted by the atmosphere. You get out of sorts and we didn't react well."

The 3,504 fans in attendance, including The Zoo (WMU's student section) were vocal and created a ruckus environment at the University Arena.

The fans created a hostile environment, which led to the team shooting 23.8 percent from the field and 7.7 percent from beyond the arc.

The Chippewas flipped a switch offensively in the second half.

Sophomore guard Chris Fowler opened the second half with a 3-pointer as he led the surge with a career-high 27 points. Fellow sophomore John Simons also added 12 points with four 3-pointers, all coming after halftime.

"The other sophomores, you're seeing it in stretches," Davis said. "Chris, you see it all the time. Those other guys, you're seeing it from (Blake) Hibbitts and Simons and (Austin) Stewart you're seeing it for half the game or a quarter of the game. They can be really good and it's their job to be consistent enough all the time."

CMU's starting lineup features the four mentioned sophomores: Fowler, Hibbitts, Stewart and Simons, and freshman Braylon Rayson. The team is young and Davis' hope was for the freshmen to take strides and create a deep team, but that hasn't happened at the rate Davis would like and the end of Saturday's game was an example.

Down 73-72 with 15 seconds left, Davis wanted his team to trap the ball if it was in-bounded to the deep corner of the floor.

That is exactly what happened, but instead of the trap they went for the steal and fell, giving the Broncos room to get the ball down court for an easy layup.

"That's something as you mature as a team and go through that experience you can read it and go 'OK we got to foul, there isn't a trap here,'" Davis said. "We were aggressive and thought we'd be able to turn it over, but they executed."

Fowler had a shot to tie the game at the final buzzer, but the ball bounced off the rim and over the backboard as the Chippewas received yet another tough loss.

CMU will have a chance to snap its eight-game losing streak at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Kent State in McGuirk Arena.