Nagging turnover issues and lackluster defense has led the Central Michigan men’s basketball team to lose four of its five games during the winter break.
The Chippewas turned the ball over 55 times and gave up an average of 75.6 points per game, slipping to 7-7, including an 0-2 Mid-American Conference record.
Most recently, the Chippewas lost to MAC powerhouse Toledo on Saturday, 71-66.
All five Toledo starters scored in double figures against the Chippewas, who turned the ball over 14 times and shot 23-percent from 3-point range.
“We just didn’t hit some of the shots we had to make tonight,” said head coach Keno Davis. “We were able to get some open looks down the stretch and hang around a little bit in there. But we just couldn’t contain them.”
Earlier last week, CMU opened conference play with a 77-70 loss to Miami (Ohio).
A slow offensive start and 17 turnovers cost the team a victory against the RedHawks.
“That’s the way this league is. Sometimes a team like that can come into your place and beat you,” Davis said. “We learn from it and keep moving. I would be shocked if this team did not continue to get better with how hard these guys work.”
The Chippewas have seen notable contribution from freshman guard Braylon Rayson, whose confidence is even higher than his scoring totals thus far.
The loss to Miami came immediately on the heels of a rough ending to the non-conference schedule for the men’s squad.
Consecutive losses to Dayton on Dec. 14 and Jacksonville State on Dec. 17 made for a less than satisfactory end to 2013 for the Chippewas.
Turning the corner
CMU turned its luck around after the holidays with 127-44 stomping of Marygrove College at home on Jan. 3. It was the largest margin of victory in CMU men’s basketball history.
“You try not to run up the score in a game like that, but at the same time, you want to stay sharp,” Davis said. “We got a lot of people involved in this one, even some people we didn’t expect.”
Rayson scored a career-high 27 points in the win, many on easy drives to the basket.
“Braylon is a guy with a tremendous amount of confidence,” Davis said. “He adds a lot to our depth and big-play ability. He’s become a huge part of this offense.”
Walk-on practice squad player Tanner Beachnau drilled a 3-point shot midway through the second half of the win over Marygrove.
“It was really cool to see,” Rayson said. “Guys like that are really a part of this team. It was a special moment for him.”
The Chippewas will head to Bowling Green (6-8, 0-1 in MAC) on Wednesday for their third conference game of the season.