The wait is over: CMU opens McGuirk Arena today against Temple
Ernie Zeigler remembers it like it was yesterday.
Upon his arrival at CMU in June 2006, athletics director Dave Heeke approached him about a plan for a new arena.
“When Dave told me about it, it was just that – a vision,” Zeigler recalled. “But he was so adamant it was going to become a reality.”
As other Mid-American Conference schools began upgrading their facilities, the basketball program was tasked trying to rebuild a team with a facility that was near inadequate to host Division I athletics.
But after months of anticipation and practicing in the Student Activity Center, it all comes to a head at 7 p.m. tonight when the CMU basketball team plays its first game in the new McGuirk Arena against non-conference opponent Temple.
“To see it become a reality and be a part of it, I feel really proud,” Zeigler said. “Hopefully, myself and our team can come out and put a stamp on a very special night.”
The Chippewas begin play in the new arena following a bit of a rocky start to the season.
A buzzer-beating three-pointer from junior forward Jalin Thomas gave the team a 70-67 win in their season-opener against Cal State Fullerton in Hawaii on Nov. 13. Riding a high, they could not carry the momentum for the rest of the trip, losing back-to-back games by a combined 10 points.
CMU followed the tournament up by having to travel south just a few days later, where a poor defensive effort resulted in an overtime loss against South Alabama.
“We knew that our situation was that we were going to play five games (on the road) before we got a home game,” Zeigler said. “For us to go and play through the adversity of the travel and heartache of the close games hopefully gives us a good chance to come in here for our first home game against an extremely tough opponent and be successful.”
Turning it around
The three-game losing skid came to an end Wednesday as Zeigler shook up the starting lineup and started all four seniors, sending a message to son Trey by bringing him off the bench. Despite recording 21 points and 10 rebounds against USA, the freshman guard had eight turnovers and played poor defensively.
“The minutes I was playing, I kind of got lackadaisical on defense and messed up on assignments and had mental errors,” Trey said.
The Chippewas would respond favorably by opening up a double-digit second half lead and win their first game of the season on the road, 62-52 at Illinois-Chicago.
Senior forward Will McClure played his best game of the young season, recording a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Thomas scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds.
“We needed to finally get a win without it coming down to the wire,” said McClure, who is averaging 5.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. “We needed to prove that we are a good team and show everybody what we could do.”
With the road win out of the way, the team has turned its sights on tonight, where an upset win against the Owls could put a season full of high expectations back on track.
Temple enters the game 3-2 following a 54-51 loss Sunday against Texas A & M that knocked them out of the Top 25. The Owls are led by junior guard Ramone Moore, who is averaging 10.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.
“They are probably coming in and thinking this is going to be a cake walk, but we’re going to show them Central Michigan basketball,” McClure said. “The whole team’s going to be excited and we’re ready.”
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