Junior guard Jordan Bitzer finished 7-for-9 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from deep, and a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. He also posted six steals and pulled down five rebounds.
"Jordan was an absolute warrior today," head coach Ernie Zeigler said. "He made shots and led the way for us. He is a glue player and we are a different team when he is on the floor."
Central improves to 4-11 on the season, 1-2 in Mid-American Conference play.
The game went back and forth during the first half. The contest was tied at 23 with 3:10 remaining in the opening frame before the Chippewas grabbed a 27-23 lead at the break.
BSU kept the game within reach the entire second half. The Cardinals pulled to within a bucket four times in the final 20 minutes, but never got the ball with an opportunity to tie the game.
The Chippewas appeared to have the game put away after Bitzer made a pair of free throws to put the team ahead 65-56 with 1:49 remaining. However, the Cardinals scored seven straight in a 32 second span to pull within two.
Central Michigan ended the run when Antonio Weary found Brandon Ford wide open underneath the basket to put CMU back up four. After another Cardinal miss, Robbie Harman sank a pair of free throws to put the game away.
"We got contributions up and down the lineup," Zeigler said. "We talked about playing desperate and we did that. We were all fighting for our season today. Most importantly, we made shots and hit our free throws."
Three Chippewas scored in double figures, led by Bitzer's career high tying 21. Harman finished with 15 points and six assists. Jacolby Hardiman tallied 10 points and led the team with six rebounds.
Central shot 51.1 percent from the floor, including a blistering 61.9 percent clip in the second half. Ball State finished 48.8 percent from the field. The Chippewas connected on more three-pointers (5-4) and made 72 percent of their free throws (18-for-25) compared to the Cardinals' 70.4 percent mark (19-for-27).
Central also won the rebounding battle (26-25) while committing only 15 turnovers and forcing 18 Ball State miscues.
CMU heads to Toledo, Ohio on Tuesday, Jan. 20 for a 7 p.m. showdown with the Rockets.
Bitzer Leads CMU Past BSU, 71-65
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