It wasn’t a pretty win by any means for Central Michigan against Olivet Friday night as it won its home opener 76-62.
But it was a win nonetheless, and it’s the first for head coach Keno Davis with the Chippewas.
CMU was out-rebounded 47-33 against the Comets, including 17 offensive boards, and was outscored in the second half 42-32.
“What we saw out of Olivet was the same attitude and the same focus and intensity you saw out of us when we went down to Iowa City,” Davis said. “It was really important for them to play as hard as they did.”
OC started off the game hot, jumping out to a 9-0 lead, forcing Davis to use his first timeout.
The rest of the first half was all Chippewas as they ran away on a 32-2 run, and fished the half with a 44-20 lead behind 53.8 percent shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
“We responded very well going on a big run when it went from 9-0 to 11-32,” Davis said. “I felt, with Olivet’s strength being their three-point shot, that I didn’t want to get into a three-point shooting contest with them.”
It’s a good thing CMU didn’t get into a three-point contest, because it made just one in the second half. As for the rebounding, that didn’t improve either, and it helped the Comets get back within 10 points late in the game.
“Our guys have got to learn to have the same rebounding focus that they had at Iowa,” Davis said. “They can’t take anyone for granted, because we’re not good enough to take anyone for granted.”
It wasn’t all bad for the Chippewas; they did still come out with the win and saw senior forward Zach Saylor come away with a career-high 14 points, leading the team on the boards with six rebounds.
“This is my fifth year here, and I’m one of the older guys, so I understand the game better,” Saylor said. “There’s a lot of flexibility to let me play my game, and I’m just playing as hard as I can.”
One of the new faces, freshman guard Chris Fowler, had a strong night as well for CMU. He added 12 points, while shooting 3-for-3 from the field and leading the team with seven assists and just one turnover.
“The thing about Chris is that he’s really a smart point guard,” Davis said. “You can see that from his assist-to-turnover ratio and to also have a high field goal percentage, you have to be smart.”
The Chippewas will be on the road from Wednesday through Nov. 24, competing in the Utah Thanksgiving Tournament in Salt Lake City.
There, they’ll play Wright State, host Utah and Idaho State before returning home Nov. 28 against Bradley.