MOUNT PLEASANT –Sefton Barrett and Giordan Watson combined for 46 points on Wednesday night as Central Michigan University earned a split in the season series with rival Western Michigan. The Chippewas (10-14, 5-7 MAC) won 71-66 after closing the game on a 6-0 run over the final two minutes. “I feel we are starting to mature and understand how important it is to defend,” CMU coach Ernie Zeigler said. “We had a great team effort in the second half defensively. When we can hold a very good offensive team to 36 percent field goal percentage (in the second half) and then outrebound them by 11 it says a lot about the maturation of our team. “I thought Sefton Barrett, Giordan Watson, Eddie Spencer and Jordan Bitzer all gave us great leadership down the stretch. It’s fun to be on the winning side of this rivalry. I’m looking forward to both programs continuing to rise in the MAC so that these types of games are for MAC championships.”
Barrett tallied game highs of 24 points and seven rebounds and Watson added 22 points, six boards and three assists. They scored nine of CMU’s 10 second-half field goals, including the final eight. Andre Ricks hit a three-pointer with 2:11 left to give the visiting Broncos (11-14, 6-6 MAC) a 66-65 lead, but they wouldn’t score the rest of the way. Barrett reclaimed the lead for CMU with a jumper at the 1:47 mark and then Joe Reitz picked up his fifth foul on an offensive charge on the Broncos’ next possession. A second-chance opportunity on the Chippewa end of the court allowed Watson to hit a floater in the lane giving CMU a three-point cushion and Eddie Spencer and Jordan Bitzer would both split a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds for the final five-point margin.
The big difference in the game was on the boards where CMU held a 37-26 advantage against the team with the second-best rebounding margin in the league. The Broncos entered the contest with a +3.7 mark but CMU tallied 16 offensive boards compared to eight by Western. “Rebounding was the big thing,” Western coach Steve Hawkins said. “You look at the majority of the stats and there are similarities there all the way down. But, when you get to shots attempted and field goals, that’s where the disparity is and some of that comes from rebounds. They got eight more offensive rebounds and that’s eight more possessions. Giordan Watson and Sefton Barrett made great plays at the end of the ballgame to put them ahead.” WMU had five players in double figures with Michael Redell, David Kool and Shawntes Gary all notching 12 apiece. Reitz finished with 11 points and Ricks added 10 off the bench. Only three other WMU players scored in the game and all three notched three points each.
Jordan Bitzer had 12 points and five boards for CMU and he had both a defensive rebound and a steal in the game’s final 15 seconds. CMU shot 44 percent from the floor compared to WMU’s 43 percent. Both teams started out hot with the Broncos shooting 50 percent in the opening frame and CMU 47 percent.
After the opening minutes, CMU controlled the opening stanza and led by as many as 12, 39-27. However, the Broncos rattled off a 7-0 run to close the half and trim the Chippewas’ lead down to five at the break, 39-34. Western tied the game right away in the second thanks to a 5-0 run and WMU would lead by as many as six before Watson tied the game back up at 52 with 8:44 left.
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