Men's basketball uses defense as a building block for winning
It’s no secret to Keno Davis.
The head coach of the Central Michigan men’s basketball team knew that even with some offensive fire power, the Chippewas would need to be better defensively this season.
“I don’t think anybody thought that we would be a top-five team in the country in scoring,” Davis said. “I think we do have some guys on this team who can score, but we knew in order to win this season we had to be better defensively.
“We have obviously cut down the numbers on the defensive end and our guys have really bought into that.”
The numbers back up Davis’ statement.
The Chippewas through nine games this season are holding opponents to 61.4 points per game, which is good for 15th in the nation and the top spot in the Mid-American Conference.
By the end of the 2016-17 season, CMU was allowing 87.7 points per game.
“It’s like night and day,” sophomore guard Matty Smith said. “Last year, we were in the bottom half of the country in defense and this year its the complete opposite. It’s a testament to how hard these guys are working in practice, it’s amazing how much can change overnight.”
Smith also said he believes the offense the Chippewas have generated so far this season has been feeding from their defensive efforts.
“We are undoubtably having our defense turn into offense this year,” Smith said. “Guys like Shawn (Roundtree), David (DiLeo), and Cecil (Williams) you will see those steals that are leading to easy buckets and breakout 3-pointers.”
So far, the Chippewas are shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc, both better statistical numbers than the 2016-17 team finished with.
Williams, a senior forward, said defense is something they have focused on since day one of practicing for this season.
“For me personally and all the guys who have been here for awhile, I can say we all agreed we needed to be better,” Williams said. “Now, we’ve made some of those changes and I think people can see our defensive effort changing by making extra plays and diving all over the floor.”
The Chippewas are also on pace to force more turnovers this season than a year ago, with 118 total turnovers this season (13.1 per game) through nine games. CMU ended last year forcing 398 turnovers (12.4 per).
“It’s rare that you would see someone on this team not giving their best defensive effort every time down the floor,” Davis said. “Every category is improving, even if its only by a little bit. I think that speaks to the character of our team.”
Senior forward Luke Meyer, who lead the team in total rebounds (64) and defensive rebounds (50), said it makes the Chippewas better from a “team-oriented” stand point.
“I’ve got an assist from every single player on the team this year, and I think because we are focusing so much on defense as playing like a team, it’s helping everywhere,” Meyer said. “Everyone looks for me out there and I’m thankful for that.”
While a majority of CMU’s defensive numbers are on the up currently, Davis said there will be nights where teams score on them and it’s better they fix those mistakes in non-conference play.
“I think the idea now is to see if we can keep getting better and better,” Davis said. “We’re going to have games where teams find our weaknesses and holes in the defense, but improving on those areas before we get into conference (play) is going to be important to see where we finish.”