Skyhawks hang on to win CIT first round game

Skyhawks hang on to win CIT first round game

The Skyhawk men’s basketball team picked up a close, nail-biting win over the Central Michigan Chippewas and will advance on to the second round of the tournament.

The Skyhawks (20-14) made a name for themselves last year as the “road warriors” after leading the nation in road wins with 12.  Three of those road wins came in last year’s CIT tournament, where the Skyhawks advanced all the way to the CIT Final Four.

Now over 10 hours away from home, the Skyhawks look to start their 2016 CIT run exactly the way they started their run last season, with a big road win in the first round.

However, the Chippewas weren’t going down without a fight and were looking to clinch their first postseason win since 2003 when they defeated Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.

The entire game was a back-and-forth contest with four ties and 19 lead changes.  Neither team went on a sizable run and the largest lead of the game was seven points by UTM at the 6:42 mark in the first half.  The Skyhawks led at the halftime break 34-33.

The close play by both the Skyhawks and the Chippewas carried on into the second half.

Eventually, it went down to the wire and with less than a minute remaining, the Skyhawks found themselves trailing by two, but a 3-pointer by UTM senior Alex Anderson, a Central Michigan turnover and two free throws by Anderson gave the Skyhawks a three point lead with 15 seconds remaining.

Needing a 3-pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime, the Chippewas had one last shot, but the long-range 3-pointer by CMU’s John Simons at the final buzzer missed and the Skyhawks escaped the Chippewas with a 76-73 win.

Anderson was the leading scorer for the Skyhawks with 21 points and senior Twymond Howard led the team in rebounds with 10.  Jacolby Mobley came off the bench and tallied 11 points for UTM and Javier Martinez, who came into today’s matchup averaging 2.5 points per game, came off the bench and recorded 13 points for the Skyhawks.

The Chippewas were led by Braylon Rayson, who tallied 24 points and eight rebounds.  Other Central Michigan players who scored double-digit points were Josh Kozinski with 15 and Chris Fowler with 10.

Overall, the Skyhawks had much better shooting percentages than the Chippewas and out-rebounded CMU 39-33.  The Skyhawks shot 46 percent from the field (28-61), 46 percent from 3-point range (11-24) and 64 percent from the free throw line (9-14).

The Chippewas on the other hand shot 43 percent overall (26-61), 35 percent from 3-point range (15-43) and 6-8 from the free throw line.

After the game, UTM head coach Heath Schroyer was greatly impressed by his team’s performance and their effort.

“It was just a gutty effort.  I can’t say enough about this group of guys…they’re tough. We had a couple of guys who were limited but everyone who went into the game really responded and we played extremely well. These kids exemplify what this program has been built on.”

The Skyhawks will advance to second round of the CIT tournament where they will travel to Muncie, Indiana to take on the Ball State Cardinals.  Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, March 20 at Worthen Arena.

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