It was a close game for awhile, but in the end, Central Michigan University prevailed 88-77 over East Tennessee State thanks to some hot shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
"We have guys who can shoot the ball," said CMU head coach Jay Smith. "Today was a good step in the right direction against a good team."
The Chippewas (4-2) converted 13-of-24 three-point attempts in the game, including 5-of-8 by Kevin Nelson and 4-of-6 by Giordan Watson. Nelson led all scorers in the game with 21 points, while Watson added 19 points and eight assists.
Trailing 13-11 early in the contest, East Tennessee State (2-5) used a 15-5 run to take a 26-18 lead with 6:41 remaining in the first half.
Central Michigan responded with some stellar play in the post by center Steve Harris, who scored six of his 13 points to lead the Chippewas on an 18-8 run to closeout the first half with a 36-34 edge on the Buccaneers.
"Steve's getting on a nice roll now," Smith said. "When Steve will play consistent, he can play with anybody."
Harris, who also pulled down nine rebounds, was pleased with his performance too, playing most of the game facing the basket.
"I love the way coach Smith has the offense set up," Harris said. "I have no problem playing with my back to the basket, but right now our perimeter players are better than our post players."
It was the play of CMU's perimeter game that sealed the win for the Chippewas in the second half, producing 44 points, including eight three-pointers.
"It seemed like every time we came back, they'd hit a big three," said ETSU point guard Tim Smith.
Eddie Spencer provided a spark off the bench for CMU with a double-double. He scored 12 points, including two clutch three-pointers, and 10 rebounds. Tony Bowne added 12 points and five assists.
"Coming off the bench I had to bring a spark," Spencer said. "The (Rose) Rowdies got me fired up."
The Buccaneers were led in scoring by guards James Anthony (19 points), Smith (15 points) and Ben Rhoda (12 points). Smith, the standout junior point guard for ETSU, was shadowed most of the game by Watson, with some help from Robert Sevalia.
"He is lightining quick," said Watson, referring to Smith. "It was a challenge for me to guard him."
Watson was called for two early fouls in the game and played much of the second half with four fouls.
"Smith is a good player," Coach Smith said. "We fouled way too much in the game. The two early fouls against Giordan slowed him down."
The Chippewas hit the road again for their next two games against Minnesota this Saturday and Vanderbilt, Dec. 20. The game with the Golden Gophers Saturday is scheduled to tipoff at noon (CST) in Williams Arena.
CMU Cruises Past East Tennessee State, 88-77
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