CORPUS CHRISTI – Blake Hibbitts' fifth three of the game, with 13.5 seconds left, lifted Central Michigan to a 68-64 win over the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team on Tuesday night at the American Bank Center. Zane Knowles had a double-double with a career-high 16 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
Jeff Beverly added 10 points to finish in double figures as well for the home squad. Hibbitts' 15 points led the Chippewas, while Chris Fowler (13) and John Simons (11) also posted double digits in points. The Islanders won the battle of the boards, 31-24, but were forced into 12 turnovers by the CMU full-court pressure.
After Central Michigan got the first basket of the game, Jake Kocher led the Islanders on an 8-2 run to regain an 8-4 advantage. The redshirt sophomore hit a three, assisted on another and delivered a putback layup in the rally. But CMU was red-hot from the field, and unleashed an 11-0 run, featuring a trio of threes to gain a 15-8 lead.
Over the next 10 minutes, the teams continued to trade blows, with neither team mounting much of a rally, and the visitors pushing their advantage to 30-20 at the 3:15 mark. At that juncture, the Islanders embarked on a 7-0 run, sparked by a Hameed Ali three, to trim the deficit to 30-27. The Chippewas pushed their advantage to 36-31 in the closing seconds, but Brandon Pye's off-balance jumper at the buzzer sent the Islanders to the half down just three, 36-33.
The teams went back-and-forth out of the break, with the Chips holding a 40-37 lead after a layup by Jelani Currie. But back-to-back threes by Hibbits pushed the visitors' advantage to nine. Free throws at each end put the score at 47-38 with 14:53 left.
The Islanders then went on a 12-3 run to tie the score up at 50. Knowles did almost all the damage in the rally, scoring the first seven points, including his first three-point play of the year. A triple by Pye and a resounding dunk by Knowles capped off the run that knotted the score with 9:54 to go.
The Chippewas came right back, though, getting a three from Josh Kozinski and a three-point play from John Simons to regain a six-point lead. After the teams traded points to a 58-52 score, the Islanders went on a 9-2 run to regain the lead. A three-ball for Currie and two free throws by Beverly capped off the run.
After Fowler added two free throws of his own to regain the lead, Currie drilled a huge basket as the shot clock expired, draining a three with 25 seconds remaining to put the Islanders up two. But Hibbitts' three gave CMU a lead, and an Islanders turnover was followed by the Chippewas hitting their free throws in the closing seconds to finish off the victory.
The Islanders are back on the hardwood on Saturday night, as they travel to Hofheinz Pavilion for a matchup with Houston. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will be carried live online on ESPN3.
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