The men’s basketball team was too giving before the holiday season Wednesday night at McGuirk Arena.
Bradley capitalized on the 18 Central Michigan turnovers and went on to beat the Chippewas 82-65.
“That surprised me, coming out of Utah, that wasn’t a problem for us,” head coach Keno Davis said. “I think sometimes our guys were trying so hard in certain areas, it was actually hurting them.”
The Braves were not challenged much after they tallied four points off two turnovers by freshmen Chris Fowler and John Simons to take a 16-9 lead with 13:10 left in the first half.
The Chippewas gave away seven of their 18 turnovers in the first nine minutes of the first half.
Senior Kyle Randall was the most turnover-prone with four giveaways, but he was also the only player who reached double-digits points with 21.
He seems to continue to be a player Davis will rely on.
After an 8-0 run by Bradley, he was fouled driving to the basket, picking up two points from the free-throw line to lessen the deficit to 40-29 at halftime.
An early bright spot for the Chippewas was their five of nine shooting from beyond the three-point line in the first half.
The 2,076 in attendance, mostly students who filled the student sections to capacity, erupted when sophomore Austin Keel made a three-pointer from the top of the key with about eight minutes left in the first to narrow Bradley’s lead to 25-16.
Senior Olivier Mbaigoto and freshman Blake Hibbitts hit three-pointers that decreased the lead for the Braves to 29-24, moments later.
A timeout by a frazzled Bradley was called thereafter.
Mbaigoto hit another three to make it 32-27 with 4:11 left in the half – the last time CMU were within five points in the contest.
Later in the game, Walt Lemon Jr. looked to close it out with a layup, giving Bradley a 19-point lead with less than eight minutes to go.
But CMU sped the tempo up, went on a 9–0 run and narrowed the lead to 74-64 at 4:48.
“The way they play is difficult because you want to attack the press, and you want to score points against it, but you also don’t want to turn it over,” Bradley head coach Geno Ford said. “We finished with only nine turnovers, but it seemed like they were all in a five-minute timeframe.”
The Chippewas only tallied one more point the rest of the game.
Senior Zach Saylor sustained an injury and played seven minutes for CMU. Davis would not specify details of the injury’s severity, but said Saylor was holding his knee.
Bradley took advantage of the lack of size and made 53.7 percent of its shots. The Braves also had six blocks.
“Everybody knows we’re a little thin in the interior,” Davis said. “When Zach Saylor went down, we got really thin.”
Davis said one positive from the game was CMU out-rebounded the bigger Bradley team, 36-34.
The Chippewas stay in Mount Pleasant to play Niagara at 2 p.m. Sunday at McGuirk Arena.