Central Michigan (3-14, 1-8 MAC) had its chances last night at Rose Arena, but in the end, it was MAC West leader Northern Illinois (10-7, 5-4 MAC) that escaped with a 49-43 victory.
"The big shot was Todd Peterson's three at the end," NIU head coach Rob Judson said. "CMU played very good defense tonight. We've had 10 games decided by five points or less this season."
With the Chippewas clinging to a 41-39 lead following a Sefton Barrett put-back with 5:05 remaining, the Huskies scored the next eight points, including Peterson's trey with 54 seconds to go that gave the Huskies a commanding 45-41 lead.
Central Michigan head coach Jay Smith was pleased with the way his young team battled back after trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half.
"We got down to the last four minutes of the game again, but we don't know how to win those yet, our young players have to figure it out," Smith said. "I thought we took care of the ball in the second half but unfortunately we had two turnovers at the end that really cost us.
"We played hard and got good looks, we just didn't knock them down," Smith added.
The Chippewas opened the scoring as Giordan Watson split a pair of free throws for a 1-0 lead before NIU scored the next nine points for an eight point bulge. CMU didn't tally its first basket until the 15:30 mark when Justin Blevins scored.
The Huskies built their biggest lead, 23-12, with 4:09 remaining in the first half before CMU went on a 10-2 run to cut NIU's lead down to three at the break, 25-22.
The Chippewas evened the score at 29-all with 13:36 to go in the second half. CMU then took its second lead of the game when Eddie Spencer scored three of his team-leading 12 points, making the score 32-30. There were four ties after that before Barrett gave CMU its last lead of the game.
"I thought both teams battled," Smith said. "There's not a lot of difference in our (MAC West) division yop to bottom."
Watson (11 points) and Blevins (10 points) joints Spencer in double-figures scoring for the Chippewas. CMU shot 33 percent from the field compared to 35 percent for the Huskies.
Leading scorers for NIU were James Hughes (12 points) and Mike McKinney (11 points).
Next up for the Chippewas is archrival Western Michigan, which travels to Rose Arena for a Sunday afternoon tilt beginning at 3 p.m. The game will be televised throughout Michigan on Comcast Local.
"The next opponent is Western," Smith said. "Are we going to show up and compete? You bet we are."
CMU Loses Late Lead and Game to NIU, 49-43
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