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Chippewas earn thrilling upset over Toledo, snap eight-game losing skid


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Bronx, New York junior forward  Meikkel Murray scores the game-winning layup against Toledo on March 2 in McGuirk Arena. The Chippewas came back from 16 points down to win the game 81-79. 

Staff reporter Mitch Vosburg recaps Central Michigan's 81-79 win over Toledo on March 2 in McGuirk Arena. Mitch Vosburg

After trailing by 16 points with 13:23 remaining, junior guard Matt Beachler had an opportunity to snap CMU’s eight-game Mid-American Conference losing streak with just under five seconds to play.

While the Lowell, Michigan native’s 3-point shot fell short of the net, junior forward Meikkel Murray was able to secure the rebound, hit a contested layup and give the Chippewas an 81-79 victory over Toledo on Tuesday in McGuirk Arena.

Murray’s layup snapped CMU’s (7-15, 3-12 MAC) eight-game losing streak while knocking off the Rockets (19-6, 14-3), who sit atop the conference standings.

The Bronx, New York native knew to be under the basket with five seconds remaining.

“I knew (Beachler) was going to shoot, that’s why I went down there,” Murray said. “Luckily the ball fell right in my hands and I went right up with it with my right reverse (layup), that’s my signature (move) too.”

Head coach Keno Davis said that Tuesday’s victory ranks not only at the top of his career wins, but his most rewarding.

“The biggest wins for coaches aren’t the ones that send you to the NCAA (Tournament) or aren’t the ones where you win your conference, it’s the ones where you face adversity, you find a way (to win) and work extremely hard to do it,” Davis said. “With what we were able to put out with numbers, that’s why in some ways there’s no other game that’s been more rewarding than this in my career.”

CMU was without freshman center Aundre Polk and senior guards Travon Broadway Jr. and Devontae Lane and dressed eight players on Tuesday. 

KEY MOMENTS

After jumping out to a 16-15 lead 8:20 into the game, Toledo mustered a 17-3 run to grab a 32-19 lead with 6:49 until intermission. Following a 3-pointer from Beachler, the Rockets once again erupted, opening a 40-24 lead with 2:19 remaining in the first half. 

The Chippewas responded with an 8-0 run featuring a pair of 3-pointers from junior guard PJ Mitchell, but a pair of Toledo free throws with four seconds remaining gave the visiting team a 10-point advantage at halftime. 

After trailing by as many as 16 points with 13:23 left to play, the Chippewas rallied back to within five points with 9:43 remaining behind a 15-6 run. The Rockets responded with a 7-0 run and drew junior center Malik Muhammad’s fifth personal foul of the game with 7:21 left to play while opening a 69-57 lead with 6:56 to go.

Down to seven players, three with four fouls, the Chippewas mustered a 24-8 run, featuring 12 points from junior Caleb Huffman, capped off by a Murray jump shot to take a 79-77 lead with 35 seconds left. Huffman fouling out allowed the Rockets to drain a pair of free throws to tie the game with 25 seconds left.

After nearly turning the ball over, Beachler heaved his ninth attempt from long range, but his shot missed. Murray secured his ninth rebound of the game and connected on the game-winning layup with three seconds remaining. The Rockets were unable to get another shot off before the buzzer.

KEY PERFORMERS

Huffman finished with a game-high 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting, scoring 19 in the second half. Murray added 24 points and nine boards while junior forward Ralph Bissainthe finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double. 

Toledo’s Marreon Jackson scored all 15of his points in the first half.

KEY STATS

The Chippewas finished 16-of-32 from the floor and 4-of-12 from long range in the second half, outscoring the Rockets 49-37 in the game's final 20 minutes. 

WHAT’S NEXT

The Chippewas conclude the regular season at 5 p.m. Friday against Northern Illinois in McGuirk Arena.

STANDINGS

Standings are accurate at time of publication. Six MAC teams played at 7 p.m. Tuesday. 

SCHOOL                     MAC  OVERALL 

*Toledo                      14-3      19-6 

*Kent State               12-5      15-6 

*Akron                      12-6      14-7 

*Buffalo                   11-5      13-7 

*Ohio                        9-5       13-7 

*Bowling Green      10-7     14-9 

*Miami                     8-8      11-10 

Ball State                7-8       9-11 

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Western Michigan 3-11     4-15 

Central Michigan  3-12     7-15

Eastern Michigan  2-10     5-11 

Northern Illinois   1-11      2-15 

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