Men’s basketball returns to McGuirk Arena at 7 p.m. today as it takes on Bradley University following a successful road trip in Utah.
Central Michigan played in the Utah Thanksgiving Tournament this past weekend and came out with a second-place finish by beating Wright State for the first time in three years and Idaho State at the buzzer.
“It’s big that we came out with two solid and close wins,” senior forward Zach Saylor said. “Our ability to finish them out and start the year the way we have is big for us.”
The Chippewas will need to keep that confidence going and keep the intensity up if they want a fourth win in the last five games. The Braves are coming in with a 4-1 record, and physical play could pose problems for CMU on the boards.
“When you look at Bradley, you see a team that plays extremely hard and plays very physical,” head coach Keno Davis said. “Rebounding is going to be key for us all year – I don’t think there will be a game this year that we’re not the smaller team.”
In the team’s last two victories, rebounding was pivotal. CMU out-rebounded the Raiders 40-29 and the Bengals 38-23 en route to two close wins.
“There are a couple of things that go into (rebounding),” Davis said. “One is our intensity and two is our defensive positioning and how hard we run offensively that teams have to worry about their defensive transitions, and they can’t send as many to the offensive rebounds as they’d like.”
Nobody knew what to expect from this team coming into the season with so many unfamiliar faces; it would be tough to predict that the season would get off to a successful start.
A win against Bradley, which comes from a traditionally powerful Missouri Valley Conference, and a 4-2 start to the season for CMU would do wonders for a team whose confidence is on the rise.
“This team is starting to learn how to win, and, sometimes, veteran teams don’t quite know how to finish off games,” Davis said. “We could’ve very easily finished 0-3 (in the tournament) … the key is when you win close games, you have to learn as much and improve as much had you lost.”