MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Central Michigan got 27 points from Chris Fowler Saturday in disposing of Bowling Green, 77-65, before a season-high 3,758 at McGuirk Arena.
It was CMU’s third straight win – its first three-game win streak of the season – and lifted the Chippewas to 12-9 overall, 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference.
“I don’t think we’ve ever lacked confidence, I just think we’re playing harder,” said Fowler, whose . . .
The win, coupled with Northern Illinois’ loss to Miami (Ohio), moved CMU into a first-place tie with the Huskies in the MAC West. The Chippewas play host to Kent State (17-4, 6-2) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Flashes share the MAC East lead with Akron.
Bowling Green (13-8, 4-4) lost its first MAC road game of the season. The Falcons outrebounded the Chippewas, 42-36. Fifteen of the Falcons boards came on the offensive end.
“I think you can see why Bowling Green was 3-0 on the road in the conference this year,” CMU coach Keno Davis said. “They gave us everything we wanted on the boards and with their physical play.
“I was really proud of my team to be able to come through and make enough plays. Obviously the home court and our fans had something to do with it. It was a really nice win for us going forward, but the rest of the games ahead are going to be a challenge to maintain that effort each and every game.”
Fowler, who also had five assists, finished 9-of-14 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. He had 21 points and nine assists in CMU’s 68-51 victory at Miami on Tuesday.
“I think you see with Chris how complete of a player he is,” Davis said. “You might not have the answer on how to guard him. If you take away one thing, he can beat you in a lot of other ways.”
Fowler missed the first seven games of the season and it appears, based on his recent performances, that he is nearing 100 percent.
“I think health-wise, it sure looks like he’s back,” Davis said. “You’re starting to see his timing come back and his conditioning is something that always continues to improve. The goal wasn’t to have him back on Day 1 and expect to see vintage Chris. The plan was for him to improve and make strides. It’s nice to see him getting back to his true self and guys definitely play better around him on the court.”
Braylon Rayson added 19 points and Rayshawn Simmons had 10 for the Chippewas, who made 40.9 percent of their 3-point attempts. They held Bowling Green (13-8, 4-4) to 37.1 percent from the floor (23-of-62). The Falcons made just two of their 12 3-point tries.
John Simons grabbed a game-high eight rebounds for the Chippewas, while Luke Meyer finished with a season-high four blocks.
Fowler scored 21 of his points in the first half as the Chippewas steadily built a 41-30 halftime lead.
They bumped their lead to 19 with under 13 minutes to play, but Bowling Green managed to claw back to within 10, 61-51, with 7 minutes remaining.
The Chippewas used a 10-4 run – triggered by a Fowler jumper with 6:41 left – to put the game away. Five of CMU’s 10 points during the game-clinching surge came at the free throw line, and Rayson ended the spurt with a 3-pointer which put CMU up, 71-55, with 3:59 to play.
The Falcons never got closer than 11 the rest of the way. CMU finished 16-for-21 from the line.
Spencer Parker scored 13 points, Rasheed Worrell had 12, and Zack Denny added 11 for Bowling Green, which entered the contest averaging 73.7 points per game.
It was the third straight game that CMU has held an opponent significantly below its season average.
“We have had great defensive effort those last three games and that’s important for us,” Davis said. “We don’t want to believe that we’re a great defensive team because we’ve been playing really hard defensively for three games.
“We need to continue to play at that level of intensity, and if we do, we’ll get better across the board. We’ll get better on offense, we’ll get better on defense, our rebounding. The individual improvement will really take off. I’m not a believer that we’re a great defensive team, but we do have effort and that’s admirable.”
Central Michigan hosts Kent State (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)
Bowling Green hosts Ball State (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)