Central Michigan built an early seven-point lead then fought off a second half rally by Western Michigan for a 71-66 Mid-American Conference win over the Broncos Wednesday night at Rose Arena.
Sefton Barrett tallied 24 points, including 7-of-8 free throws, to lead the Chippewas (10-14, 5-7 MAC) to victory.
"Coach was telling us to keep our poise," Barrett said. "We talked about playing as one and just having fun."
CMU head coach Ernie Zeigler was pleased to see his team finish strong at home.
"It's really fun to be on the winning side of this rivalry," Zeigler said. "The biggest thing about this game is we were finally able to finish and complete a win at home.
"There's no coincidence that the success we've had the past two weeks is a direct relationship to the improved play of Sefton Barrett," Zeigler added.
Barrett scored nine of CMU's first 14 points as the Chippewas built a 16-9 lead. CMU held a 39-34 lead at the half, but then things got interesting for the maroon and gold.
The Broncos (11-14, 6-6 MAC) opened the second half with an 11-3 run to take a 47-42 lead at the 14:13 mark.
"We struggled in the first five minutes of the second half with battling," Zeigler said.
The Chippewas worked hard to limit the post touches of WMU All-MAC center Joe Reitz, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds before fouling out with 1:26 remaining.
"In my opinion, Western is the most physical team in the conference," Zeigler said. "We talked about trying to deny him (Reitz) post touches tonight."
"We didn't make plays tonight and Central did," Reitz said. "We knew Central would be ready to play on their home floor. They went to the glass hard. They came out with defensive energy."
With 3:47 remaining, the game was tied at 63. The lead changed hands in the frantic final minutes as CMU point guard Giordan Watson scored two of his 22 points on a jumper. Bronco guard Andre Ricks followed with a 3-pointer at the 2:11 mark to give WMU a 66-65 lead.
Barrett followed with a mid-range jumper at the 1:47 mark to give the Chippewas a 67-66 lead they would never relinquish. Watson converted a mid-range jumper followed by Eddie Spencer and Jordan Bitzer (12 points) splitting a pair of free throws to seal the win for CMU.
"Giordan Watson and Sefton Barrett made great plays at the end to win it for Central," WMU head coach Steve Hawkins said. "Rebounding was the difference tonight. They had 16 offensive boards to only eight for us."
For the Broncos, Michael Redell, David Kool and Shawntes Gary scored 12 points apiece.
The Chippewas travel to Chicago Saturday for a game against the UIC Flames of the Horizon League. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CST.
Chippewas Hold Off Western Michigan, 71-66
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