Keene to rule the MAC: Junior guard sets CMU single-season record, but his focus is on a conference championship
At the beginning of the season, Keno Davis doubted Marcus Keene's ability to keep up his scoring dominance.
Now, Keene is making history as Central Michigan men's basketball's all-time single-season leading scorer.
After scoring 27 points against Buffalo on Tuesday, Keene surpassed Dan Majerle, who scored 759 points during the 1987-88 season. Keene now sits at 775, the most points scored in a single-season by a junior in Mid-American Conference history.
With five games remaining in the regular season, Keene needs 99 points to become the MAC's all-time single-season scoring leader, set by Ohio's Dave Jamerson during the 1989-90 season.
After the game, Keene chose not to speak to the media during the press conference because he was tired, but his head coach spoke on his behalf, saying Keene’s accomplishment was only the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s very well deserved for him to get some recognition,” Davis said. “I think it’s a sign of great things to come for him and his future in basketball.”
During Majerle's record-setting season, he averaged 23.7 points per game. Keene leads the NCAA in scoring with 29.8 points per game. He has had five 40-point games and 14 30-point games, which is also a CMU record.
“I was asked into the first month of the season if (Keene) could keep the pace, and I said ‘no.’ It doesn’t happen and nobody keeps that pace.” Davis said. “He’s had off nights, but not very many. His off night is a 26 or 27-point game when he had an off stretch or an off half.”
In an interview earlier this season, Keene said his scoring comes from believing in himself.
"I've got confidence in myself (and) in my shot to where I know I'm going to be shooting the ball a lot for our team," Keene said earlier this season. "It's more just putting in a lot of work and confidence with me."
In the Buffalo loss, Keene finished the first half with only four points all of them from free throws. Keene did not make a field goal in the first half.
Needing two points to break the record with the Chippewas down 59-49 with 15:14 left in the second half, Keene drove to his right, spun off of a defender and made a contested right-hand layup to achieve the milestone.
Keene added 23 points in the second half after the subpar first half, and the Chippewas clawed back into the contest but ultimately came up short.
He finished the game 6-of-19 from the field and added six rebounds and eight assists. Teammate and fellow Texas native Braylon Rayson said his teammate's achievement was significant.
“It is huge,” Rayson said. “It is a big deal.”
Davis said Keene’s record-breaking performance has helped bring notoriety to the team, and his play has elevated the entire group.
“It is also another step for our program,” Davis said. “We might not win the championship, but we are as competitive as anybody, night in and night out.”
Keene’s confidence and ability to shoot separates him from other prolific scorers, Davis added.
“I’m not going to say that his confidence is better than the other great scorers that have played here at CMU, but there’s nobody with more confidence than him,” he said. “Also, his ability to create his own shot. We can just give him the ball, and he can score on his own. That is something that is really rare in basketball.”
Though he scores at will, Keene fills the stat sheet with assists and rebounds. He averages 4.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Keene’s 11 assists against Green Bay earlier this season is a season high. He has also had two games this season where he has tallied 10 rebounds.
The 5’9” guard averages 36.4 minutes per game for the Chippewas. His play time is only second to Rayson, who plays 36.8 minutes per game on average.
“We want to try to give (Keene and Rayson) some breaks so they are fresh at the end of the game,” Davis said. “I think we will try to get those guys more breaks as we go through the end of the season.”
Performances like Tuesday's game and Jan. 21 — when he scored a McGuirk Arena-record 50 points and tied a CMU record with 10 3-pointers — have given Keene national attention.
On Feb. 8, the Wooden Award trimmed its watch list down to 20 college basketball players. With players like UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and Kentucky’s Malik Monk, Keene's name was also on the list. The John R. Wooden award, established in 1976, is an honor given to the most outstanding collegiate basketball player of the year.
Keene has also been nominated for the Naismith Award, which is awarded to the Player of the Year in men’s college basketball.
“I do not know what his chances are of winning those awards,” Davis said. “We are in a day and age that you can be in the MAC and people get a chance to watch online or on national TV. The exposure he is getting is great for him and great for our basketball program.”
Keene's efforts have the Chippewas in second place in the Mid-American Conference. CMU takes on Ball State in its second home game in a row at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at McGuirk Arena.