CMU Men Win A Thriller

January 8, 2020 | Written By: Keno Davis
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – A buzzer-beating victory.
Stay in the game, keep working, and good things are bound to happen.
Kevin McKay scored the go-ahead basket with 0.2 seconds to play as Central Michigan came back from a 12-point second-half deficit to claim a thrilling 68-67 victory over Northern Illinois on Tuesday in a Mid-American Conference men's basketball game at McGuirk Arena.
The Chippewas, who improved to 9-6, 2-0 MAC, won despite trailing for almost the entire game and improved to 9-0 at home. NIU is 8-7, 1-1.
Game-winning play
With the Chippewas trailing, 67-66, CMU's David DiLeo rebounded a missed free throw by NIU with 6 seconds remaining. DiLeo got the ball to guard Devontae Lane, who raced up court and found McKay. McKay scored going to the basket, putting CMU in front for the first time since late in the first half.
"Devontae came down the floor, they double teamed him, he saw me, I was open, and that was pretty much about it," said McKay, who hit nine of his 12 field goal attempts for a game-high 21 points. "This team, we have a lot of people who are going to show up on any given night, tonight happened to be my night.
"When you're feeling it, you just go with it. Coach (Keno Davis) did a good job when he saw I was feeling it tonight with getting the ball in my hands. I was able to finish some plays, which helped me on defense and rebounding. Next few games, whoever's hot, that's who we're going to give the ball to."
How It Happened
The Chippewas trailed by 12 points, 53-41, with under 13 minutes to play. But they continued to dig, getting it to a two-possession game on several occasions over the final 12 minutes.
NIU led, 67-63, after Trendon Hankerson hit two free throws with 15 seconds remaining. Lane answered with a three-point play with 9 seconds left, drawing CMU to 67-66.
The Chippewas then fouled NIU's Mateen Zaire, who had not attempted a free throw all season. He missed, DiLeo rebounded, and the remaining five seconds became a memorable highlight reel for CMU.
"As it was a live situation out there, we've talked about, 'This is what we're going to do at the end of a game,'" Davis said. "Although we've might not have executed the right play, the spacing was really good, and that's what's so important in basketball, especially on a fast break."
"While our spacing might not have been good for a majority of the game, it was really good down the stretch, and I think that last play resembles it. We had a shooter open, we had McKay open, we had options. Devontae gets better every day, being able to pass and distribute the ball."
Team Stats
The Chippewas overcame a poor shooting night as they finished just five for 22 (22.7 percent) from 3-point range. The Huskies entered the game holding opponents to 29.1 percent from long range, second best in the MAC.
The Chippewas limited NIU to just three triples on 13 attempts.
NIU held a 48-30 advantage on points in the paint, but the Chippewas outrebounded the Huskies, 35-32. McKay led CMU with eight rebounds.
Individual Stats
DiLeo scored 12 points, while Lane added 11 and led CMU with five assists.
Defensive Strategy
The Chippewas needed a lot to go their way when they faced a 67-63 deficit with 15 seconds to go. They emphasized keeping Hankerson and Eugene German, NIU's leading scorer, off the free throw line. Hankerson entered the game shooting 83.3 percent from the line, while German is the MAC's leading scorer, averaging 20.7 points per game. He scored 20.
"We knew that German is a heck of a player," DiLeo said. "We knew he was a pretty good shooter so if we could stay away from fouling those two players … And with the other three players, especially at that point, whoever gets the ball, we're just going to have to foul them."
Said Davis: "We told the guys to be really aggressive with them and try to get the steal. But, if you foul them, it's fine, let's make sure their best free throw shooter doesn't get the ball. Late in the game, their best free throw shooters are going to be on the court. I thought we did a pretty good job on the fly with some of our pressure we put in late. It was a little bit different from the pressure we normally use."
CMU will head to Kent State on Saturday, Jan. 11 (3:30 p.m.). The Golden Flashes are 12-3, 2-0, after an 84-77 win over Toledo on Tuesday.
Kent State is the highest-ranked MAC team (13th) in the Mid-Major Top 25.
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