Wednesday, January 14, 2009

CMU comes back to force double overtime, but Eastern Michigan prevails 84-77

Despite some late-game heroics to send the game into double overtime, the men's basketball team lost its sixth consecutive game Tuesday to Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti.

Down three players because of foul trouble, CMU could not stop EMU senior guard Zane Gay, who made two 3-pointers, including one with 20 seconds left to seal the 84-77 win for the Eagles.

"The word that comes to my mind more than any is 'disappointed,'" said coach Ernie Zeigler. "But like I told our guys, unfortunately, basketball isn't horseshoes - close doesn't count."

Junior guard Jordan Bitzer pump faked defender Will Cooper with 12 seconds left in overtime and made a 3-pointer that tied the score at 71. Both teams made steals in the final seconds, but the game headed to another five-minute period.

"He didn't go for (the fake), so I just pulled the trigger and it felt good coming out and it went in," Bitzer said.

CMU was down 57-53 with 29 seconds left in regulation before junior guard Robbie Harman made two 3-pointers. He cut the EMU lead to one - 57-56 - with 11 seconds left. After two made free throws by EMU's Wendale Farrow to make the score 59-56, EMU regained possession and Brandon Bowdry missed two free throws with six seconds left. Bitzer grabbed the rebound and Harman made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

"We battled tonight - we came back at the end of regulation," Bitzer said. "There's a fire there and it's still burning. We're not going to give up on the season - it's only two games in the (Mid-American Conference). We could easily go on a five-game win streak and be right back in it."

In double overtime, EMU's 3-of-4 3-point shooting proved costly as Gay hit two and freshman L.J. Frazier hit another. CMU was outscored 13-6 in the period, with all of its points coming from the free-throw line.

Central led 32-28 at halftime, but Eastern came out of the locker room fast, scoring seven consecutive points and going on a 14-7 run to open up the second half.

Free throws became costly again for CMU as it shot 20-of-33 (60.6 percent). The Chippewas ranked second-to-last in the MAC coming into Tuesday with a 60.2 percent average.

"We're definitely working to correct it every day," Zeigler said. "It's a mental thing, a confidence thing, particularly for a few guys. Once you get into game and pressure situations, you have to put yourself mentally in position to be able to knock down those free throws."

Central (3-11 overall, 0-2 MAC) was down three players for the majority of the overtime periods as junior Jacolby Hardiman (nine seconds left in regulation), senior Marcus Van (one minute into overtime) and Lawrence Bridges (22 seconds into double overtime) all fouled out. Van finished with 13 points, 12 of which came in the first half. Bitzer led CMU with 21 points and nine rebounds.

"It definitely hurt when Marcus and Jacolby fouled out," Bitzer said. "Van was having a good game and we were getting him the ball down low."

Two of the Eagles' leading scorers, Bowdry, the MAC's sixth-leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, and junior forward Justin Dobbins, also fouled out - but not before Bowdry scored 22 points to lead EMU (3-13, 1-1 MAC).

Central returns home for a 4:30 p.m. Saturday game against Ball State at Rose Arena.

"This loss definitely hurts," Bitzer said. "But we have to use this to fuel us going into Saturday - Saturday is a must-win for us against Ball State."

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