ESTERO, Fla. - The Central Michigan Chippewas went cold went they could least afford to Monday as the short-handed Chippewas suffered their first loss of the season, 63-60, to Weber State in their opener at the Gulf Coast Showcase at Germain Arena.
John Simons scored 17 points and Josh Kozinski added 14 for the Chippewas (2-1), who will play Western Kentucky (2-2) at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"The positive from this game was that our effort was outstanding," CMU coach Keno Davis said. "Shorthanded, without Hibbitts, without Chris Fowler, and playing a rotation of seven guys against a very athletic, very talented team. To be able to have that effort through the 40 minutes is definitely a bright spot."
Joel Bolomboy scored 19 points and pulled down 15 rebounds and Jeremy Senglin added 18 points to lead Weber State (2-2), which plays Drake on Tuesday night.
The Chippewas, who led by 11 points in the first half, made just one of their final 10 field goal attempts. That make was a Kozinski 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 29 seconds remaining and it tied the game, 60-60. It would be CMU's final bucket of the night.
Senglin broke the tie with a free throw with 1:16 left. CMU had a chance to go ahead with 7 seconds left, but Rayshawn Simmons' drive to the basket struck iron and bounded away.
Dusty Baker knocked down two charity tosses with four seconds remaining for the final margin.
The Chippewas made just 34 percent of their field goal attempts including an 11-for-40 clip (28 percent) from 3-point range. The Chippewas were just 7-for-11 from the free throw line. Weber State was 24-for-31 from the charity stripe.
"We all struggled shooting the ball," Davis said. "We shot 40 threes. If you would have told me we were going to shoot 40 3's I'd think we'd win going away, that we were on fire.
"I still look at that as a positive. Maybe our shot selection wasn't good, maybe we didn't shoot well, maybe we didn't do those little things that we needed to. But to shoot 11 for 40 and only shoot 11 free throws and to have a shot to win the game in the last seconds, I think that says a lot about your players."
Simmons finished with nine points, eight rebounds and six assists, while DaRohn Scott came off the bench to finish with eight points and a career-high nine rebounds for the Chippewas.
While Simons finished with 17 points, he was plagued all night by foul trouble and it clearly hampered CMU on the defensive end, particularly in the post against the 6-foot-9 Bolomboy, who had numerous dunks.
"With John, we really don't have a backup for his position with Hibbitts out," Davis said. "Our rotation went from seven to six -- or we played with John who had to let some plays go, some dunks, some plays at the rim.
"That's frustrating. But as a coach, you'd rather have him on the court than have him on the bench with five (fouls)."
The Chippewas built an 11-point lead, 28-17, with under four minutes to play in the first half, but by halftime Weber State had trimmed its deficit to six, 30-24.
Weber State forged a 35-35 tie with under 17 minutes to play. The largest lead the rest of the way was a five-point CMU advantage, 57-52, with under seven minutes left.
"Can we get better from this game?" Davis said. "Can we continue to improve? Hopefully, we get healthy and as we do that I think that's why we're optimistic that this team can accomplish great things this year."
The Chippewas will be back on the court Tuesday afternoon to face Western Kentucky, which fell to Drake, 81-79, in overtime in their tournament opener earlier on Monday.
"I've never had a turnaround from 8:30 (start) to 2:30 the next day," Davis said. "That's not ideal. We'll get some rest, first and foremost. The coaches, we'd love to have two weeks of practice after that game, but players would like to get out on the court and continue to show where they're at right now.
"That's why we scheduled this tournament in the first place. It's a good measuring stick for what we need to do to improve so that by the time MAC play starts in January we're firing on all cylinders."