The Chippewas’ second-leading scorer was scoreless, the best post defender fouled out with more than nine minutes remaining, and the Buffalo Bulls owned a 13-point lead at halftime on their home court. The combination of issues might have provided an opportunity to “pack it and be reasonably satisfied with a .500 week on the road in the Mid-American Conference.
Instead, CMU rallied behind 15 points from Josh Kozinski for a dramatic 75-74 win at Alumni Arena. Chris Fowler’s free throw with eight seconds left proved to be the difference. It was Central’s second straight MAC road win (following a win at Ohio on Tuesday) and it moved the Chippewas into a tie with Toledo atop the MAC West.
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Jarryn Skeete led the way for UB with 19 points -- nine coming from beyond the arc and six at the free throw line. Justin Moss, the MAC’s leading scorer, netted 13 points and four boards. Xavier Ford added 12 points (13 rebounds) and Shannon Evans chipped in 10 points.
"It was nice for our guys to have a week where you go get two MAC wins and continue to fight for seeding in the MAC Tournament," CMU coach Keno Davis said.
The Chippewas (18-5 overall, 8-4 MAC) trailed 45-32 at halftime, but outscored the Bulls, 43-29, over the final 20 minutes. A Kozinski three-pointer with 8:06 left gave CMU a 62-61 lead. Central never trailed again, but Buffalo forged a 74-74 tie with 38 seconds left when Moss scored inside.
Fowler, who finished with 22 points and was 8-for-11 from the free throw line while playing all 40 minutes, hit a free throw with eight seconds remaining to put CMU ahead for good.
Buffalo's shot attempt with one second to play missed, giving CMU its first win at Buffalo since 2007.
Austin Stewart finished with 10 points for the Chippewas, while John Simons -- CMU's second-leading scorer -- went scoreless. In addition, DaRohn Scott, a 6-foot-8 ½ freshman who was sorely needed to help control the likes of Moss inside, fouled out with 8:57 to play after logging just 10 minutes.
"We didn't make it easy," Davis said. "It was one of those games where we just kind of felt in the second half like all the momentum was ours. If we could just get close enough to have a chance at the end."
The Chippewas made 16 of their 26 second-half field goal attempts (61.5 percent) and finished the game at 50 percent from the field.
After making just one triple in the first half, CMU was 5-for-10 from three-point range in the second half. All five of their second-half threes came from Kozinski, a freshman who finished 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Simons, one of the nation's top three-point threats, went scoreless, but he did lead the Chippewas with 11 rebounds, three of which came in the waning moments (he also had a big block during that stretch) when CMU seized the game, winning at Buffalo for the first time since 2007.
It was just the second time that Simons has been held scoreless in his collegiate career. The last time the 6-8 junior forward didn't score in a game was on Jan. 15, 2013 (against Eastern Michigan), a streak of 65 consecutive games.
After allowing Buffalo to make 56 percent of its first-half field goal attempts including a 4-of-11 clip from three-point range, the Chippewas held the Bulls to 34.4 percent shooting (11-for-32) in the second half, and just two triples on 11 attempts.
"We played inspired basketball in that second half," Davis said. "If you were going to tell me that John Simons would have no points and we're going to win at Buffalo, that says (a lot) about the other players around him.”
"We had some guys come up with big plays and that's what winning teams do. Late in the game they're not worried about the pressure, that they're just playing as hard as they can and that's been the MO of our team all year."
The Chippewas play host to Northern Illinois on Wednesday and are home with Ball State next Saturday. The Huskies (10-12, 4-7) and Cardinals (7-15, 2-9) occupy the bottom two spots in the MAC West standings. It will be the first meeting of the season between CMU and Northern Illinois. The Chippewas lost at Ball State, 83-65, on Jan. 10.
Buffalo hits the road for games against Eastern Michigan (Wed., 7 p.m. ET) and Bowling Green (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET).