Men's basketball comes back from 18-point deficit to defeat Western Michigan

After storming back from an 18-point deficit in the second half, Marcus Keene had the ball in his hands with the game on the line in the final seconds.

In front of the largest crowd in McGuirk Arena history (5,412), the nation’s leading scorer dribbled to his right and hit a step-back, fade away shot with 4.3 seconds left give the Central Michigan men's basketball team an 86-82 victory against Western Michigan Friday night. 

MVP chants rained down for the second time this season as the transfer from Youngstown State once again delivered in the clutch.

“(Thomas Wilder) had this look in his eye like he was going to get a stop and I had this look in my eye like it was going to be otherwise and I just went one-on-one and got to my shot I was comfortable with,” Keene said. “We just stuck together as a team and (the fans) stuck with us and we came through in the end.”

Keene scored 35 points on 14-of-28 shooting and added six assists, five rebounds and three steals. He broke a program-record with his 13th 30-point game of the season.

The Chippewas (15-8, 5-5 Mid-American Conference) ended a three-game losing streak to their arch-rivals and won their first in the series since Feb. 7, 2015.

"I credit our guys for keeping their head on straight when everything went wrong,” said head coach Keno Davis. “We kept feeling like the game was never out of reach. Fortunately, we had enough at the end.”

Senior Braylon Rayson had only five points in the first half and appeared frustrated with his inability to get to the basket against the lengthy WMU defenders. However, Rayson broke out in the second half with 15 points, including the game-clinching two free throws with two seconds remaining.

“I just wanted to help my team. I knew my team needed me,” Rayson said. “I looked up at the scoreboard and we were down 12, so I knew I had to pick it up and I did.”

Western Michigan lead 20-4 early in the first half and shot 67 percent from the field before the break. The lead quickly jumped to 18 in the second half before Davis switched up his defense to a full-court press.

After the switch, the Broncos had issues simply in-bounding the ball and getting it up court. The press forced them to rush their offense which resulted in several turnovers and 33 percent shooting the rest of the way.

Davis said he didn’t want to overwork Keene and Rayson with the press the whole game, but leaned on them and the rest of his team to slow down the Broncos’ offense late.  

“We didn’t press in the first half, so we came into the locker room saying we need to press more whether it was three-quarter or full-court,” he said. “It’s tough to be a pressing team when you have two guys playing nearly 40 minutes, but when the game stretched out, those guys had enough in the tank.”

Once the crowd got into the game, the momentum completely flipped and the Chippewas tempo was too much down the stretch.

Rayson tied the game with a 3-pointer late in the game before junior DaRohn Scott got the team its first lead off a free throw the next possession.  Scott finished with 11 points off the bench off 4-of-4 shooting.

Rayson said the game meant more than just another win.

“It’s personal. It’s personal for everyone in that locker room,” he said. “It’s not just a regular game; it means something to everybody in the community, the alumni, everybody. If we beat anybody, we want to beat them.”

The Chippewas are 11-1 at home this season, where they play four of their final eight games.

What’s Next

Central Michigan heads to Athens, Ohio on Tuesday to play the Bobcats. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.