Chippewas Win Home Opener in Dramatic Fashion

MOUNT PLEASANT - Freshman Jordan Bitzer came off the bench to spark Central Michigan University to an 85-68 win over UMKC in the home opener on Sunday afternoon in Rose Arena.

After nursing a foot injury for the last few weeks, Jordan Bitzer saw the first action of his career and responded with a team-high tying 17 points, including five three-pointers.

Central Michigan (2-1) trailed by 20 with just under six minutes left in the first half, 34-14, and was down 42-26 at the break.

Bitzer had a trey and a layup in the opening moments of the second half as CMU clawed its way back into the game by opening the final frame on a 12-0 run. He gave the Chippewas their first lead with a three-pointer that made it 47-46 with 12:00 left in the game and that capped what ended up being a 21-4 run by the home team.

In the second half, CMU held the Kangaroos (2-1) to 25 percent shooting from the floor (8-for-32) and nine percent from three-point range (1-for-11) after UMKC shot a blistering 54 percent from the floor (15-for-28) and 60 percent from the arc (6-for-10) in the first.

"I'm proud of the fact that our guys responded to some adversity in the first half," coach Ernie Zeigler said. "We came out deliberate and afraid to fail. At halftime, we talked about coming out and executing the things we wanted to do offensively and defensively. It started with Giordan Watson and his pressure on the ball in the second half. Our defense fueled our offense."

"I'm really happy for Bitz(er). We thought he had a stress fracture. He had been having good practices up until when he got hurt and I'm proud of him for coming out and seizing his moment. He came out and knocked down shots. He understands spacing and how to play. He comes from a good high school program with a good coach. Now, hopefully we can get him to sustain that."

The Chippewas shot 51 percent from the floor (25-for-49) and 50 percent from three-point range while nailing a season-high 13 treys.

Watson tied for team-high honors with 17 points and eight assists. Eddie Spencer had a career-high 16 points and seven boards and Chris Kellermann added 13 points and six boards. Kellermann also added a trio of three-pointers.

Dane Brumagin led UMKC with a game-high 26 points off the bench. He started 6-for-6 from the floor and had 19 points at the half.

CMU continued its dominance on the boards, holding a 42-26 advantage. The Chippewas have outrebounded their opponent in every game this season, including the exhibitions.

Next up for the Chippewas is a road game at Cincinnati on Saturday, Nov. 25. Tipoff in Fifth Third Arena is set for 6 p.m., and the game will be televised in Cincinnati on WXIX-TV Fox 19.



NOTES:

• Five different players hit a three-pointer for CMU: Bitzer (5), Kellermann (3), Spencer (2), Watson (2) and Sefton Barrett (1).

• CMU won despite 21 turnovers; 14 coming in the first half.

• Nine Chippewas played double-digit minutes, including all five starters.

• The Chippewas held UMKC's leading scorer, Quinton Day, to 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting; he entered the game averaging 24.0 ppg.

• The Chippewas have now won seven straight home openers.

• CMU's +16 rebounding margin (42-26) was its largest since outboarding Eastern Michigan, 45-25, in a 79-72 loss on Feb. 12, 2005.

• Spencer was 8-for-8 from the line en route to his career-high 16 points.


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