Men’s basketball defeats Tennessee Tech for 7th straight win
Central Michigan's men’s basketball team won its seventh straight game thanks to a solid performance from senior forward Cecil Williams.
The Chippewas (8-1) took down Tennessee Tech (7-4), 74-69, on Dec. 9 at McGuirk Arena. Williams led the way for CMU with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists.
"It was nice to pull out the win even though we might have struggled," sophomore forward David DiLeo said.
DiLeo opened the scoring with a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the action. With 9:33 left in the first half, senior guard Josh Kozinski gave CMU a 22-20 with a 3-pointer.
Junior forward Curtis Phillips Jr. did not start for Tennessee Tech, but made his presence felt, scoring 10 points in the first half and 14 overall.
After five ties and four lead changes, CMU led TTU 39-37 at halftime. The Golden Eagles out-rebounded the Chippewas by five and shot at a higher percentage from the field and 3-point line.
CMU and TTU continued to duke it out early in the second half, as both teams traded baskets from all over the floor.
"Tennessee Tech did some things offensively against our man and zone that we weren't prepared for," Davis said. "We had to go away from some of the things we were going to try and do.
"We threw some things at our guys in-game and they were able to learn it on the fly."
Junior guard Gavin Peppers ignited McGuirk Arena with 12:29 left in the second half by attacking the basket, drawing a foul and scoring at the rim as time expired on the shot clock. He converted the free throw, giving the Chippewas a 55-51 lead.
With 11:32 remaining in the contest, Williams took a hit to the head and went down underneath CMU’s basket. He was slow to get up, but managed to walk off the floor and to the locker room on his own power.
"It looked like a lot of contact," Davis said. "From 80 feet away, it looked like he took an elbow to the face."
Moments later, Williams returned to the bench. He stepped back on the court with 10:23 left in the game.
Williams, following his return to the floor, attacked the basket and scored a layup with 10:02 remaining — giving CMU a 61-53 lead.
"Cecil is a big part our team with scoring, rebounding, and defense," DiLeo said. "He was just motivated to get back in there and help the team win. He made some big plays."
The Golden Eagles got a 3-pointer off the hand of junior guard Aleksa Jugovic with 1:20 left in the contest, cutting the team’s deficit to three points, 70-63. Just under the 30 second mark, redshirt sophomore forward Mason Ramsey gashed CMU’s lead to one-point on a mid-range jumper.
Williams sealed the win when he caught a pass from Kozinski, drew a foul and scored with 15.4 seconds left. He converted the free throw to give CMU a 73-69 lead.
DiLeo buried a late free throw to finalize the win, 74-69.
"I would take 8-1 (to start) every year," Davis said. "Games come down to the end and you need some luck. Our guys haven't panicked."
CMU will travel on the road to Cedar City, Utah for a battle against Southern Utah at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 16. This game is the start of a two-game road trip.
The Chippewas return to McGuirk Arena on Dec. 22 to take on SIUE before the holiday. After a six-day break, they face Laurence Tech in the last nonconference game of the season.