Riding a three-game losing streak and the toughest part of the Mid-American Conference schedule on the horizon, the men’s basketball team needed a win.
It didn’t get it Saturday, and Miami (Ohio) left McGuirk Arena with a 70-61 win, and CMU left with a four-game losing streak and matchup at MAC-leader Akron on Tuesday.
“Every loss is tough whether you win a few in row or lose,” said head coach Keno Davis. “We have to make sure we keep it in perspective on where our team is at; there was a point a few months before the season that I didn’t know if we’d win four games all year.”
The Chippewas struggled offensively in the first half, shooting 26.9 percent from the field and a lowly 36.4 percent from the free-throw line.
But, in the second half, that all changed.
CMU shot 42.1 percent in the second half overall and 91.7 percent from the free-throw line, but it wasn’t enough.
“That’s just a part of the game, some go and some don’t,” said freshman guard Chris Fowler. “We’ve got great shooters on the team, but even great shooters miss shots.”
Freshman forward Blake Hibbitts hit four three-pointers, leading the team to a 31.6 shooting percentage from beyond the arc, for 12 points, but he didn’t hit a single shot in the second half.
Senior guard Kyle Randall was strong on the night with a team-leading 20 points.
“Overall, we improved, but we actually went down with the three-point percentage,” Davis said. “We’re trying to build around those shooters, and when those shots don’t go down, it’s tough to win.”
CMU’s lack of a post presence on defense has hurt the team all season. Senior center Zach Saylor, who missed a portion of the season with a knee injury, fixed that problem early on with three blocks before the first media timeout.
In fact, coming into the game, defense was a problem for both the RedHawks and the Chippewas, who are ranked at the bottom of the MAC in defense.
“In those first five minutes, our defense presence was good,” Davis said.
Miami struggled in the first half from the field and free-throw line, but improved from the field in the second half, shooting 47.6 percent.
Heading into the game, both teams controlled the ball well with good distributors in junior guard Quinten Rollins for the RedHawks and freshman guard Chris Fowler for CMU.
Fowler ended the night with seven assists, giving him 108 on the season, one shy of a single-season record for a freshman.
“My role is to get the guys the ball,” Fowler said. “If that’s the case and I’m that close to the record, then I have to give all the credit to the team.”
Davis needed something to spark his team, and he turned to freshman guard Derrick Richardson Jr., who got his first start of the season over sophomore guard Austin Keel, who started the first 20 games of the season.
Richardson entered the game shooting 45 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range, while Keel was shooting 32 percent from the field and 24 percent from three, where he is typically most dangerous.
“It was no different (with Richardson starting),” Randall said. “We’ve played with that lineup before, so him starting didn’t make a difference.”
CMU heads to James A. Rhodes Arena on Tuesday to take on the Zips, the lone undefeated team in the MAC. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.