“It shows that we’re maybe not a finished product as a team, but we’re sure exciting to watch,” third-year CMU coach Keno Davis said.
The Chippewas improved to 11-1 after winning just 10 games all of last season and 11 the year before. CMU is off to its best start since the 1969-70 team started 14-1.
Coming out of the non-conference portion of the schedule, it was clear the Chippewas were a vastly different team than the one that won just three MAC games last season and was seeded 11th (of 12) in the league tournament.
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Any doubts that the Chippewas could play with the MAC heavyweights were erased on Tuesday as they dug in and gritted out a road win against a Toledo team that returned four starters from a squad that posted a school-record 27 wins last season.
It was hardly a thing a beauty, but (it) rarely is on the road in the MAC.
CMU made just 40 percent of its field goal attempts, including 28 percent from three-point rang -- both numbers well below its season averages. The Chippewas visited the free throw line just eight times and made six.
“How we drove the ball to basket, for us to only shoot eight free throws in that game, I don’t know how that’s possible,” Davis said. “Toledo’s a good defensive team, but when you drive every time at the basket … and to only shoot eight?
“What would have happened the last couple of years? That would have bothered us. I told the team they were going to have to be tougher and fight through that.”
They did. Critical was the fact that the Chippewas committed just four turnovers, tying their season low, as they extended their win streak to six, the longest in Davis’ three-year tenure at the helm.
“You play in that game against Toledo, and you turn the ball over four times total?” Davis said. “Four turnovers in 40 minutes. … It’s sure nice to be able to win in different ways this year.”
The Chippewas forced 13 Toledo turnovers, and held a 17-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
Rayshawn Simmons scored 16 points, Chris Fowler had 14, and Simons finished with nine to lead CMU. Fowler added seven rebounds, while he and Simmons dished out five assists apiece.
Justin Drummond paced Toledo (8-6, 0-1) with 13 points, while Jonathan Williams added 11. CMU held Toledo’s leading scorer, Julius Brown, to seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Neither team led by more than six points, while the game featured 12 lead changes and 11 ties, the last at 62-all after Toledo’s Nathan Boothe hit two free throws with 1:30 left.
That set the stage for Simons’ game-winning triple which came after Fowler knifed through the lane to draw the Rockets’ defense and kicked the ball to Simons in the corner.
CMU trailed, 60-55, with under 3:30 to play when Simmons hit a jumper and Fowler completed a three-point play with 2:53 left to tie it at 60-60.
A Simmons tip-in with 1:58 left put the Chippewas in front, 62-60, before Boothe tied it with his free throws.
Central Michigan goes to Ball State (5-6) on Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET). The Cardinals open league play on Wednesday at Eastern Michigan. Toledo hosts Akron Friday (7 p.m.).
(Courtesy of CMU Athletics/MRO edit)