MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Marcus Keene and Braylon Rayson had career nights, and the Central Michigan Chippewas needed every bit of everything they provided.
The Chippewas’ dynamic backcourt duo combined for 70 points Tuesday as CMU improved to 8-2 by outrunning Green Bay, 107-97, in a shootout at McGuirk Arena.
Keene scored 40 points and . . .
“I don’t know, we just turned it up,” said Rayson, who scored 18 of his points in the first half. “They started off, early in the game, trapping, trying to deny (Keene) the ball, and that’s what got me hot. Then the second half, it went the opposite way.”
The junior guard, who leads the nation in scoring, poured in 31 of his points in the second half. His 40-point performance was the most by a Chippewa since Feb. 4, 2015, when Chris Fowler scored 42 points in a loss to Bowling Green.
“I just got in a rhythm in that second half,” said Keene, who on Monday was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week. “I got into a little zone and I got some layups and my threes started falling. My mindset, I just feel like that nobody can stop me one-on-one and I just got in a groove and we just kept it going.”
It was another remarkable night for both Keene and Rayson, who are listed at 5-foot-9.
“We might have the smallest backcourt, but we might also have the most difficult backcourt to defend at our level,” CMU coach Keno Davis said. “I can’t even imagine trying to figure out how to stop those guys because you can’t take their shots away.”
Cecil Williams added 12 points, David DiLeo had 10, and Luke Meyer hauled down 10 rebounds for the Chippewas.
Kerem Kanter scored a career-high 23 points for Green Bay, which had five players in double figures.
The Phoenix (4-5) never took the lead in the final 20 minutes, but they continually lapped as the Chippewas’ heels. CMU held Green Bay to four 3-pointers in 20 attempts.
“Our guys have continued to play with composure, even in the biggest spots and I think that’s something that’s rare especially with a lot of guys doing this for the first time,” Davis said.
Keene finished 12-of-23 from the floor, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range. He also made 10 of his 11 free throw attempts and finished with seven rebounds.
“Almost a triple-double,” Davis said. “When you’re 5-9 and come get seven rebounds and get 11 assists to one turnover and shoot over 50 percent from the field. That’s everything.
“It’s not often that you hear of somebody having an unselfish 40, but that’s about as unselfish 40 as you can possibly have.”