EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Before playing at Northwestern on Wednesday night, Central Michigan had done a lot to make people forget last season's 10-21 record. One thing the Chippewas hadn't done was win on the road.
They have now.
Braylon Rayson scored 19 points, and Central Michigan beat Northwestern 80-67. Luke Meyer had 18 and Rayshawn Simmons added 13 for the Chippewas (7-1), who have won two in a row after suffering their lone loss of the season Dec. 2 at Bradley.
Central Michigan, which was playing on the road for only the second time this season, won its first game in 11 days and led by as many as 19. They also defeated a Big Ten team for the first time since winning 78-67 on Dec. 15, 2007 at Michigan.
Beyond that, Wednesday's win also showed that the Chippewas' strong start might be built on more than wins at home.
"People talk about our good start but it was always followed with a but. 'But, you've played this team or that team' or 'But, you've just been at home,'" Chippewas coach Keno Davis said. "We knew what we were as a program and as a team, that we were much improved. It was nice to not come here and win but to be able to perform, which was what really my focus was.
Northwestern coach Chris Collins didn't have a team that performed.
The Wildcats (6-4) were coming off an emphatic 101-49 win Sunday over Mississippi Valley State, but they looked more like the team that had lost its previous three games. They were outrebounded 31-26 and were 26 of 62 from the field.
Bryant McIntosh and Alex Olah each scored 12 for Northwestern, which allowed its season-high in points.
"Our effort wasn't up to standard tonight," Collins said. "Something that is not acceptable is not fighting."
That was apparent early and Central Michigan took advantage, setting the tone for the game.
The Chippewas dominated the first half, leading 36-29, shooting 52 percent and outrebounding Northwestern 19-12. A Rayshawn Simmons 3-pointer with 3:56 remaining in the first gave Central Michigan a 29-17 lead, compelling Collins to call a timeout.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, struggled during the opening 20 minutes but cut the deficit to seven at the buzzer thanks to an Olah 3-pointer. Unlike their win over MVSU when they led 47-26 at the break thanks to hitting 18 of 30 shots, the Wildcats were just 11 of 30 prior to halftime.
"Our coaches are always telling us to make the first punch. We have to make the first punch," Rayson said. "We can't keep coming out here every time and getting hit first. We had to come out here and hit first, and that's what we did."
As usual, the Chippewas' strongest punch was their offense. Entering play Wednesday they were averaging 82.6 points per game and hitting 47.9 percent of their shots, and that strong offense continued against the Wildcats. They hit 58.3 percent of their shots — including 10 of 18 from behind the 3-point line.
Northwestern had no answers, only getting as close as three early in the second half. And when Sanjay Lumpkin was asked to rate the Wildcats' effort, it was clear he wasn't satisfied.
"I don't want to do that," Lumpkin said.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN: Wednesday was the Chippewas' lone game against a team from one of the power five conferences. ... John Simons entered play 23 of 38 from 3-point range but was only 0 of 2.
NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats dropped to 3-1 all-time against Central Michigan in the schools' first meeting since Nov. 26, 1996. ... Northwestern was unable to hold its opponent below 70 points for the 16th straight game, allowing 70 or more for the first time since Feb. 19.
Meyer had 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting before halftime on his way to a career-high. The freshman's previous best was 13, adding more production to what's becoming a dangerous offensive team. "Luke's a good sampling from our team that he shows some flashes of greatness," Davis said. "If we can continue to do that throughout our team, we're going to be a real tough program."
Northwestern was once again without senior JerShon Cobb, who has been shut down indefinitely due to various injuries. He isn't expected to play Saturday when the Wildcats host Western Michigan.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN: Friday at home against Concordia (Michigan)
NORTHWESTERN: Saturday at home against Western Michigan.