MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Rayshawn Simmons scored 18 points and dished out eight assists Tuesday as the Central Michigan men’s basketball team shook off inspired Alma, 79-64, in a non-conference game at McGuirk Arena.
The Chippewas, playing their second game without star Chris Fowler, used a balanced attack in improving to 2-0. They are scheduled to play three games in three nights in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida beginning on Monday.
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Luke Meyer and John Simons scored 16 points apiece and Braylon Rayson added 11 for the Chippewas, who never trailed and led by double-digits throughout most of the second half. Simons grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds.
CMU RANKED NO. 8
The victory came four nights after an 89-83 season-opening win over Jacksonville State. The Chippewas, ranked No. 8 in the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, were in control in both games.
But neither game evolved into a blowout that some might have expected. Part of that is likely due to the fact that the Chippewas are carrying on without the injured Fowler and key reserve Blake Hibbitts, who is out for the season.
“If we had beaten Jacksonville State by 20 and Alma by 30, I don’t think we’d have as much of an indication of where we needed to improve,” Davis said. “So I think a lot of this, with the teams we’ve played and how well they’ve played against us, really could be a positive for us going forward.”
Fowler, Davis said, isn’t expected to return “for at least a couple weeks.”
While Fowler, a four-year starter and runner-up in the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year voting a year ago, is clearly missed, the Chippewas have plenty of weapons on which to draw.
Particularly Simmons, the reigning MAC West player of the week, who logged 39 minutes after playing the entire 40 against Jacksonville State.
“Rayshawn Simmons, I think the most positive thing I can say about him is he gets 18 points, eight assists and five rebounds and I thought he had an average game,” Davis said. “That’s quite a number. That’s career highs for other guys.”
DJ Beckman scored 16 points, Scott Nikodemski added 15, and Chase Fairchild added 14 for the Division III Scots, who hung tough despite trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half.
The Scots finished 10-for-29 from 3-point range.
“With so many returning players and with how they’re coached, this wasn’t going to be a game that, just because it’s a Division III opponent, we were going to be able to run away with,” Davis said. “We were going to use it to focus on really defending the 3-point line knowing that that’s how a team like that can come in here and beat you.
“It exposed some of the other things for us defensively, but we understand that and knew that coming in. We’re far from a finished product but I liked our guys’ intensity and how they were able to battle back when things weren’t going our way for a stretch in the middle of the game.”
Alma trimmed its deficit to six, 44-38, less than two minutes into the second half, but the Chippewas responded with a 15-3 run to re-establish control, 59-41, with under 14 minutes left.
Alma never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.
The Scots employed an effective zone defense at times, which forced the Chippewas to be patient and work the ball around the perimeter.
“We’re not used to seeing (a zone),” said Simons, who finished 3-of-6 from 3-point range. “Last year we didn’t see a whole lot of zone outside of Eastern Michigan who plays it religiously. That was good for us to see a zone.
“It was a good test for us, Alma played really well, and I think we were able to pick out some areas we need to improve on.”