CMU 85, UT 69: Men's basketball shoots season-high 55 percent to win MAC opener
Having lost six of their last seven, Ernie Zeigler realized something needed to change.
So after the Central Michigan men’s basketball team suffered an embarrassing 18-point loss to Wright State on Dec. 22, in which it shot less than 35 percent from the field and an even-worse 17 percent from beyond the 3-point line, he told his players to forget about it and come back ready to shoot.
And shoot. And shoot.
“We had a shooting clinic,” Zeigler said. “For 11 straight days, the guys came in the mornings and shot in groups of fours.”
The extra work paid off Saturday, as CMU shot a season-high 55 percent from the floor in an 85-69 win over Toledo in its Mid-American Conference opener before 1,129 at McGuirk Arena.
Freshman guard Austin McBroom, who struggled in the team’s three-game road trip in late December, led the charge early. Toledo took an early 2-0 lead, but the Chippewas went on 7-0 run, which included a 3-pointer from McBroom at the 18:13 mark.
CMU’s defense imposed a three-quarter press early, forcing the Rockets into nine turnovers and preventing any type of ball movement. By the 7:47 mark of the first half, UT was 2-of-14 from the field and the Chippewas had jumped out to a 27-12 lead.
“We wanted to have pressure consistently,” Zeigler said. “Just picking up the ball three-quarters (of the) court. It was consistent all night and gave us a chance to get into transition.”
After CMU extended its lead to 30-14, the Rockets penetrated the lane to find easy buckets – going on a 10-0 run – to crawl back into the game. But 3-pointers from freshman Jordan Keel and McBroom kept the UT offense at bay and prevented them from drawing closer. When the Rockets cut CMU’s lead to eight early in the second half, McBroom responded with another 3-pointer.
“The jump shot was working,” said McBroom, who finished with 16 points on 4-of-9 shooting, all of his buckets 3-pointers. “The past two weeks all we’ve been doing is working on our jump shots, and it showed tonight.”
Sophomore guard Trey Zeigler also put on one of his best performances of his CMU career, shooting 4-of-5 in the first half and 5-of-7 in the second half for a team-high 19 points.
When the Rockets pulled within eight with 14:57 to go in the second half, Trey responded with a layup. On his next possession, he cut to the lane and layed in another basket and drew a foul.
“I was just picking my spots, really,” Trey said. “With our offense, it’s all about picking your spot and I knew I was going to get my turn.”
The win improved CMU, a team desperate for a win after it had lost six of its last seven games, to 6-8 on the season and 1-0 in MAC play.
With a 16-game conference schedule, Ernie Zeigler said his staff tends to downplay the importance of the first MAC game. This year, however, it was a different a tune in the locker room.
“We knew we had played pretty good basketball during that stretch where we only won one out of seven,” he said. “This was a huge game for us, since we knew we had four of the first six (conference games) on the road.”
Despite the lopsided score, Toledo shot better than 45 percent, was outrebounded by just two (31-29) and ended up with one turnover more (14-13) than CMU.
“Our shooting,” Zeigler said without hesitation. “Nobody missed an open shot. When you shoot the ball like that, it’s hard to lose.”
CMU travels to Ypsilanti on Wednesday to take on Eastern Michigan (6-9, 1-0 MAC). The Eagles beat Northern Illinois, 47-40, on Saturday to win their conference opener. Tip-off is 7 p.m. at the EMU Convocation Center.
Sophomore forward Jevon Harden started the game for senior Andre Coimbra, a move head coach Ernie Zeigler called a disciplinary move after Coimbra violated a team rule over break.
Coimbra checked in early in the first half and played 29 minutes, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Harden had two points and four rebounds in eight minutes.
“One thing that is consistent in our program is a level of accountability and discipline,” Zeigler said. “He served his punishment, along with some other things, and we’re going to move forward.”
Contact Aaron McMann at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann for updates.