CMU Beats Evansville in Bracket Buster, 90-73

Central Michigan University built a 23-point halftime lead and cruised to a 90-73 victory over the University of Evansville in an ESPN Bracket Buster game Saturday at Rose Arena.

The Chippewas (5-20, 1-13 MAC) scorched the nets in the first half, converting nearly 56 percent of their shots on 19-of-34 shooting from the field.

Kevin Nelson led three Central Michigan players in double figures scoring with a career high 27 points. Nelson made five-of-eight three-pointers and was a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe.

"We had the chemistry going," Nelson said. "My teammates found me today and I hit some shots."

Central Michigan head coach Jay Smith said he was pleased with the overall effort of his team.

"Our kids rose to the challenge today," Smith said. "When we've got confidence in our shot and Nelson is hitting, we can be a good team."

Joining Nelson in double figures were Gerrit Brigitha with 20 points and T.J. Meerman with 11. Clint Cuffle led Evansville, scoring 11 points before leaving the game midway through the second half after being injured.

While the Chippewas built a 52-29 halftime lead thanks to some hot shooting, the Purple Aces (5-19, 4-11 Missouri Valley) managed to make just 9-of-29 over the same period for 31 percent.

"Our defensive pressure was very good," Smith said. "We played with great energy for 40 minutes."

That energy was illustrated in another area CMU has struggled this season - rebounding. For one of the few times this season, the Chippewas outrebounded an opponent, holding a 43-39 edge on the Purple Aces. Adam Dentlinger led the way with eight boards.

The Chippewas also received a boost from junior Robert Sevalia, who got his first career start at point guard, dishing out eights assists against only one turnover.

"Rob played a great floor game, taking care of the ball and defending," Smith said.

In the second half CMU cooled off considerably from the field, shooting just 23.1 percent. Evansville shot 53.3 percent in the second stanza and with 10:54 remaining, cut CMU's 23-point halftime lead down to 12 points.

The lead was quickly restored back to 20 points though, keyed by two Nelson three-pointers and a lay-up by Dan Quinn, who equaled his career-high with six points in 13 minutes.

"I told the staff that I was going to play Quinn behind Adam Dentlinger and Dan came in and played aggressive and gave us a lift," Smith said.

The two teams were whistled for a total of 59 fouls, 30 by Evansville and 29 for CMU. The Chippewas converted 33-of-41 free throw attempts to 16-of-29 for the Purple Aces.

The Chippewas return to Mid-American Conference action Wednesday, Feb. 25, when they play at rival Western Michigan. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

"Yes, that's a big game Wednesday night against Western," Smith said.

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