CMU snaps losing skid with comfortable win on road
CHICAGO – Sometimes it takes a grounding to make a point.
And Central Michigan men’s basketball head coach Ernie Zeigler made just that Wednesday in a 62-52 victory against Illinois-Chicago in front of 1,612 at the UIC Pavilion.
Before the game, Zeigler opted not to start his son, Trey, following an eight turnover game Saturday against South Alabama.
“He’s been focusing on my defense,” Trey Zeigler said after the game. “The last game we made a lot of mistakes. He came at me personally and I just wanted to respond.”
And respond Trey did, scoring a game-high 17 points while adding seven rebounds off the bench, leading an offensive charge that included three players scoring in double figures.
He also limited UIC forward Paul Carter, who came into the game averaging better than 17 points per game, to just 10 points on 1-of-7 shooting.
“I’m really proud of him,” Ernie said. “He very easily could have pouted or dropped his head, but the challenge for him was to have better effort and better focus defensively.”
CMU (2-3) shot 46.9 percent for the game, holding the Flames to just 32.7 percent from the floor and 3-of-12 from 3-point range. They entered the game ranked 11th in the Mid-American Conference in field goal percentage defense, something Zeigler emphasized to the players before the game.
“Through these first four games, we really struggled,” he said. “There was very much an attention to detail and we had a lot of guys really focus on what our defensive game plan was.”
The Chippewas got double-digit scoring from three players for the first time since their 70-67 win against Cal State Fullerton to open the season.
Senior forwards Will McClure and Jalin Thomas scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. McClure tallied a double-double, adding 10 rebounds while leading the team with two blocks.
“We had all four seniors finally starting again and wanted to come out and show the younger players how to play tough and finish out games,” McClure said. “Every single game coach talks to me about battling on the boards and keeping people out of the paint, so I had to protect the house.”
UIC (3-3) jumped out to an early 12-6 lead eight minutes into the game, but the Chippewas countered with a 20-6 run before taking a seven point lead into halftime.
They came out in the second half with the same energy, extending their lead to as many as 16 points and never allowing the Flames to mount a comeback effort.
The win snaps a three-game losing skid and is the team’s first win on the road.
“To go home and be 1-4 would have been a difficult circumstance for us to face, so for us to be able to get this first road win of the year and not have a game that comes down to the last shot was very pleasing,” Zeigler said.
Senior guard Robo Kreps, who entered Wednesday second in the Horizon League in scoring, was held at bay with 14 points.
The Chippewas have a week off before hosting nationally-ranked Temple Dec. 1 at McGuirk Arena. The game is sold out.
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