Redeemed: Nelson, Barrett Lead CMU Over Rival WMU

Kevin Nelson

Two weeks ago with two of its star players suspended, Central Michigan University played at archrival Western Michigan and suffered an embarrassing 84-39 defeat. Last night at Rose Arena, Kevin Nelson and Sefton Barrett were back in the CMU lineup to lead the Chippewas to an emotional 84-74 victory over the Broncos.

Kevin Nelson and Sefton Barrett were all smiles after leading Central Michigan to an exciting 84-74 win over archrival Western Michigan in front of a raucous Rose Arena crowd.

Nelson scored 23 points, including 7-of-11 3-pointers, and Barrett added 20 points for the Chippewas (8-15, 3-12 MAC).

The two did not play against the Broncos (16-9, 9-6 MAC) two weeks ago in Kalamazoo after being suspended for a violation of team rules. The Chippewas lost that game, 84-39.

"It was hard listening to that game on the radio and it motivated me to play well tonight," Nelson said. "My teammates found me and I hit my shots."

Barrett hit his shots too, including a breakaway dunk in the first half that gave CMU a 15-12 lead and electrified the crowd.

"It was a wide open slam that helped motivate our team," Barrett said. "I just wanted to provide a spark. I definitely learned something after having to sit out."

Central Michigan head coach Jay Smith was pleased with the play of his team.

"I want to congratulate our team after losing by 45 down there," Smith said. "Kevin and Sefton combined for 43 tonight. I see a difference in the way they conduct themselves now. Hopefully, they learned their lesson."

Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins said he knew CMU would be ready to play after the game in Kalamazoo.

"Not only did they (CMU) get those two (Nelson and Barrett) back, but the game was here (Rose Arena)," Hawkins said. "We knew coming in that a win against us would make their season."

After CMU led for most of the first half, the Broncos took a 37-36 lead into halftime following a Rickey Willis layup at the buzzer.

Senior center Steve Harris (12 points) stepped up for the Chippewas in the opening minutes of the second half, contributing six points as CMU built a 45-41 lead it would never relinquish.

The Chippewas extended their lead to 70-58 with 7:25 remaining following consecutive 3-pointers by Barrett and Tony Bowne. The Broncos then went on a 9-0 run to make it 70-67 with 5:26 remaining. The momentum swing was aided by a full court WMU press.

"We pressed when Nelson was not in the game," Hawkins said. "We could not afford to do that with him in the lineup because he would get too many open looks. The difference in the game was Kevin Nelson. He moved well without the ball."

CMU made 30-of-53 shots from the field for 56.6 percent, and hit a blistering 14-of-22 3-pointers for 63.6 percent. Chippewa freshman point guard Giordan Watson joined Nelson, Barrett and Harris in double-figures scoring with 12 points.

Senior forward Levi Rost scored 17 points to lead four WMU players in double-figures. Rost was joined by Joe Reitz (16 points), Brian Snider (15), and Ben Reed (10). Overall, the Broncos converted 21-of-58 shots for 36.6 percent, including 6-of-24 (25 percent) from beyond the arc.

WMU made 26-of-35 attempts from the free throw line compared to 10-of-13 for the Chippewas. The Broncos outrebounded CMU, 38-30.

Central Michigan continues its homestand Saturday, Feb. 19, when it hosts Cleveland State of the Horizon League in an ESPN Bracket Buster game. Tipoff at Rose Arena is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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