CMU men's basketball snaps three game losing streak at NIU


Junior guard Anthony Pritchard dribbles the ball down the court during the men's basketball game against Kent State Saturday, Jan. 13 in McGuirk Arena. Pritchard scored 11 points and made five rebounds during the game. (Ella Miller | CM Life)

Coming out of halftime up four, Central Michigan men’s basketball needed a big spark offensively to pull away from Northern Illinois on Tuesday.

That is exactly what the Chippewas did, going on a 13-5 run in the first four minutes of the half to build CMU a 12-point lead. It would not trail again in the game, giving CMU the win 69-63.

The win snaps a three-game losing streak for the Chippewas and brings them to 17-13 overall and 11-6 in Mid-American Conference play.

“We gutted it out,” head coach Tony Barbee said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win at Kent State a tough place to win and we gave ourselves a chance tonight and got over the hump.”

In the first eight minutes of Tuesday’s matchup, it looked like it was going to be all CMU as the Chippewas led 19-6, after junior guard Anthony Pritchard made a layup.

But NIU responded quickly as in the next six minutes it went on a 13-2 run cutting CMU’s lead to only two. The remainder of the half, featured buckets traded by both teams with CMU heading into the break, up 32-28.

The Chippewas came out hot in the second half opening up its lead to 12, by going on a 13-5 run in the opening minutes. NIU followed up with a 6-0 run of its own in the following minutes cutting CMU’s lead to only four with 12 minutes remaining in the game.

That was as close as the Huskies would get, as CMU did just enough throughout the remainder of the game to keep its lead and overall win the game.

Leading the Chippewas on the offensive side was, junior guard Derrick Butler who had his fourth 20-plus point performance of the season with 24 points. The biggest area of his game was three-point shooting as he had the same amount as the entire NIU roster with five, three pointers.

Freshman guard Cayden Vasko also added some solid minutes, adding 10 points while also having a game-high three steals.

“We'd liked him (Vasko) to be better, more confident on the offensive end of the floor,” Barbee said. “But he gets hesitant passing. He understands how to have an impact on winning because it's not just about scoring.”

CMU entered the game without starting junior forward Markus Harding. During the game junior forward Jemal Davis left the game with an injury and did not return.

With one game left to play, CMU has clinched the fourth seed in the MAC tournament and with lingering injuries Barbee said he may look to rest his starters on Friday.

“It might be a game that we don't play anybody,” Barbee said. “It's about being healthy at the conference tournament next Friday, so we'll see.”

CMU will play host to Eastern Michigan at McGuirk arena at 7 p.m. on Friday for its final game of the regular season.