'This is our house': Larry Austin Jr.'s heroics give CMU 88-86 overtime win
Larry Austin Jr. delivered a pass from half court, watched Rob Montgomery throw down a dunk and immediately flexed his muscles, yelling in excitement from the other end of the floor.
On Central Michigan's next possession, Austin tossed in a mid-range jumper. Then, he dropped a behind the back pass to Kevin McKay for a layup. The result was a 73-72 lead over Akron with 1:46 left.
Putting fans at McGuirk Arena on their feet, Austin's heroics seemed to be enough for the Chippewas, but junior forward David DiLeo's name was called in the clutch.
Down by three and facing three free throws with 5.2 seconds in regulation, DiLeo was perfect from the charity stripe, and a miss from Akron's Loren Cristian Jackson sent the game to overtime.
Tied at 86 as time was set to expire in overtime, Austin blew past two defenders and found the bottom of the basket on a layup attempt with 2.6 seconds remaining for an 88-86 lead – proving to be enough for the Chippewas' (13-2, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) two-point victory.
When the final buzzer sounded, Austin – the hero – threw up his hands in windmill formation at center court and screamed, "This is our house."
"We have to protect it," Austin said of playing on his home floor. "Ain't nobody just come in and take something away from your house. If they take it, it's not going to be easy, but we don't plan on giving up anything."
McKay went for a block against the Zips (9-6, 1-1 MAC) underneath the basket with 11 seconds remaining. Fans didn't agree, but the referee called a foul, sending Jimond Ivey to the free throw line down by one.
Ivey made both, tying the game.
Coach Keno Davis decided to go with Austin for the final shot, and his decision paid off. Austin took his man to the basket – exactly as Davis called for.
"I felt like, with the game as long as it was, Larry is better at getting all the way to the rim," Davis said. "It was just a reaction of what might be best at the time."
When Austin scored in the final moment, all of McGuirk Arena erupted in cheers. Davis, however, thought of how to avoid a buzzer beater on the other end. Working in his favor, Akron's Tyler Cheese missed the final attempt of the game.
Down 36-30 at halftime, Montgomery, a junior forward, tossed in 10-straight points for the Chippewas to give the team a 44-40 edge with 15:43 remaining. Six of those points came off 3-pointers from the baseline on back-to-back possessions.
"Keno told me, 'Go stand right in the corner and shoot it,'" Montgomery explained. "They didn't step out, and I shot with confidence."
Montgomery finished with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from downtown. Senior guard Shawn Roundtree Jr. chipped in 20 points, three rebounds and three assists.
With 3:43 remaining, Roundtree cut CMU's deficit to 70-67 on a 3-pointer from a few steps beyond the line. He flashed a scowl in the process, emulating his thoughts of a comeback. Austin, on the next possession, followed suit by throwing a long pass to Montgomery for a slam dunk.
"I get excited for my teammates," Austin said. "Rob dunks the basketball, that's exciting. He had a great game."
Akron was paced by Ivey, who logged 24 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the loss. Daniel Utomi chipped in 18 points and six rebounds.
CMU is now 8-0 at home this season. Following back-to-back wins to open MAC play, the Chippewas take on Bowling Green at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at McGuirk Arena.