Forcing turnovers has become a bigger part of the identity of Central Michigan men’s basketball for stronger post players.
Over the course of the season, head coach Keno Davis has said the Chippewas need a better post presence, but might have found a short-term replacement.
“When the game gets into half court, which it will against Northern Illinois and an Eastern Michigan, the height advantage stands out a lot more than when you are running up and down,” Davis said. “The faster paced game, the more our lack of inside size and post presence offensively and defensively.”
Sunday afternoon, CMU was out rebounded by Northern Illinois 37-22. The Chippewas fought back by forcing 18 turnovers and scoring 20 points off those plays.
“In the simplest form, coach stresses (turnovers),” said sophomore Austin Stewart. “The more we turn them over, the more possessions we get. The more possessions you get, increases your chances of winning. We understand that and, as a team, we try to make that happen.”
Stewart and sophomore guard Chris Fowler led the team forcing three turnovers apiece, many of which came in the opening moments of the second half.
“We were able to, with turnovers, create 18 turnovers and only have eight,” Davis said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team like this, that could have eight turnovers in a game. We needed to try and get the game as an up-tempo game without giving up easy opportunities, which is easier said than done.”
The process of forcing more turnovers and converting them into points has not come to the Chippewas over night. When CMU went to NIU two weeks ago, they were able to force 13 turnovers and score 12 points off of them.
Davis believes the change in turnover success comes in part to player development.
“It shows something about how our players are developing, being able to handle the ball and being able to make good decisions,” Davis said. “That was probably the only reason we were able to overcome the rebounding disparity because of forcing some turnovers. Not only that, but forcing some turnover to easy scores as well.”
The improvement of the full-court press is another part of the Chippewas game Davis has seen improvement in.
“One thing you can see from (the) last couple games is when we are pressing and we are putting pressure on the ball, it’s night and day from a month ago,” Davis said. “We were kind of on the ball, but we weren’t really. It was like a fake press where we weren’t forcing turnovers. We were kind of hoping they would throw them to us. Now we are giving pressure, we’re defecting passes and we are jumping passing lanes.”