RUSTON, La. - A resurgent season for the Central Michigan Chippewas came to an end Tuesday as the Chippewas fell, 89-79, to Louisiana Tech in a National Invitational Tournament opener at the Bulldogs' Thomas Assembly Center.
Raheem Appleby scored 22 points as Conference USA regular-season champ Louisiana Tech (26-8) made 11 of its 19 three-point attempts (57.9 percent) and shot 56.9 percent from the floor overall in winning its 30th consecutive home game.
The Bulldogs entered the game averaging 6.7 triples per game and shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc. They out-rebounded the Chippewas, 39-31.
Chris Fowler scored 21 points, Braylon Rayson had 20 points and eight rebounds, and Rayshawn Simmons added 18 points for the Chippewas, who finished 6-for-23 (26.1 percent) from three-point range after entering the game averaging 10.2 triples per game.
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Jans continued, “They played very, very well in that game. They got up and down the court, they finished at the rim, and they shot better than they had from the three all year."
Louisiana Tech built a double-digit lead with about five minutes remaining in the first half, and held a 45-33 halftime advantage.
The Bulldogs led by 10, 59-49, with just over 12 minutes to play before CMU clawed back to within four, 62-58, on a short Simmons jumper with 10:04 remaining.
The Bulldogs, however, re-established control with a 13-4 spurt to go up 13, 75-62, with 7:00 left. Central Michigan never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.
"I give our guys credit for battling back in the second half to cut the lead to four and to give themselves a chance," Davis said. "It would have surprised me if we hadn't kept fighting because that's really been the MO all year for this group, to keep battling, and how we stay together for 40 minutes."
The Chippewas finished 23-9 and wrapped up a season during which they:
• Won their first Mid-American Conference regular-season championship since 2003.
• Made their first post-season appearance since 2003.
• Reached the MAC Tournament championship game.
"I'm extremely happy for this year's team," third-year coach Keno Davis said. "For the juniors, and for the seniors, that they were able to have this kind of success, and for the staff, for the administration, and for the fans to see our team and how they improved and that we were able to win a MAC championship, and we were able to play in the post-season are things that I'm proud of."
The Chippewas more than doubled their win total from the previous two seasons combined, and finished MAC play 12-6, a nine-win improvement over last season. "I think we not only believe we're moving in the right direction, but that we can be competitive and that we can compete for championships in the foreseeable future," Davis said. "We've got the foundation built that we can have success each year. We can go into the season knowing we have a competitive team on the court and know that we can compete with the best in the conference."
(Courtesy of CMU Athetics/MRO Edit)