Meerman’s shooting lifts team to title

If you listen close, you can hear it echoing from the walls of Rose Arena.

“Shoot, T.J.. Shoot.”

It is a favorite and familiar sound during Central Michigan home games. From Rose Rowdies to Alumni, rock-solid junior point guard T.J. Meerman hears it from all directions.

“It doesn’t bother me too much,” Meerman said. “I know that when I have an open look, I’ll take it. My role is to be kind of a facilitator and get the other guys involved.”

If his play over the weekend is any indication, Meerman has turned more than a deaf ear to the fans. During Central’s three wins in the MAC Tournament, Meerman exhibited an offensive outburst, setting career highs in both the semifinal and final game. Meerman knocked down seven-of-10 three pointers and averaged 11.3 points over the tournament.

“I was trying to be more aggressive than I had been,” Meerman said. “Our team plays better when I am more aggressive. A lot of double-teams on Chris (Kaman) open up shots for us. We’re pretty confident shooters. We just set up and knock them in.”

Meerman is another weapon in Central’s extensive collection. While Kaman, Mike Manciel, J.R. Wallace and Whitney Robinson may grab the headlines, Meerman’s steady play led the Chippewas in the team’s 15-game turnaround. While he is fourth on the team in three-pointers made, his 44 percent three-point percentage is the team’s best.

“If you back off of us, we shoot it in,” said Head Coach Jay Smith. “Our coaching staff has worked hard with the players, and we have had an incredible shooting year.”

Meerman’s career game came during Saturday’s final against Kent State. Meerman hit four-of-six three pointers on the way to a 16 point-performance. The Golden Flashes were committed to double-teaming Kaman, which left players like Meerman open on the outside.

Against Northern Illinois the night before, Meerman scored 12 points, all in the first half.

“T.J. really stepped up and hit some big shots for us this weekend,” Smith said.

For Meerman, the trip to the NCAA Tournament is a dream come true.

“It is every kid’s dream from the time they grow up,” Meerman said. “They want to play ball and go to the NCAA Tournament. Being from a school like CMU, it’s even more special, because there has been a lot of odds against us. It is huge for the school.”

Meerman’s role will continue into Thurday’s first-round matchup with Creighton, who will stay focused on stopping Kaman. However, due to his strong recent performances, Blue Jay Head Coach Dana Altman will become aware of Meerman’s shooting ability.

Opposing coaches are beginning to find out T.J. Meerman can shoot the ball.


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