Men’s basketball entertains Northern Illinois in MAC showdown
After losing six of its last seven Mid-American Conference games, the Central Michigan men’s basketball team desperately needs to get back on track.
The Chippewas (13-8, 2-6 MAC) battle against Northern Illinois (10-11, 3-5) at 7 p.m. on Jan. 30 at McGuirk Arena.
“Just because we win a game doesn't mean we are the best team in the league,” said CMU head coach Keno Davis. “We are just trying to get better and if we can keep improving there is no way we can’t be a really good team by March.”
CMU is led by the trio of junior guard Shawn Roundtree, senior forward Cecil Williams and sophomore forward David DiLeo, of which all score in double figures.
As a transfer from Mineral Area College, Roundtree has been in the spotlight, logging 15.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Williams averages 14.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
DiLeo, while he has only averaged 8.5 points over the past seven games, is a threat for a double-double. The 6-foot-7, 216-pound forward has logged 12.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.
Along with the trio of scorers, sophomore guard Kevin McKay has emerged as a clear sixth man for the Chippewas. In 19 games this season, McKay averages 10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
“(McKay) brings so much energy on the court," Davis said. "Now, it’s about him being able to play that number of minutes and not get too tired.”
In spite of early conference struggles, Davis wants to take his team to the NCAA Tournament. He believes anyone in the MAC has a chance.
“If we can stay healthy, we have a shot,” Davis said. “Of all the teams I’ve seen, there’s not that much difference. There’s not much between us and those teams. In basketball, it’s a one-game chance to win. We knew we had a tough schedule to start the league when you play four-of-six on the road.”
The Chippewas rank No. 1 in the nation in free throws, scoring from the line 80-percent of the time.
The Huskies have dropped games to Pennsylvania, Florida Atlantic, Milwaukee, Iowa State, Marquette, Iowa, Ohio, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Akron and Western Michigan. In its most recent 79-72 loss to WMU, Northern Illinois put up a second-half fight but fell short in the end.
Sophomore guard Eugene German owns the court for the Huskies, averaging 19.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per contest. Along with German, junior guards Levi Bradley and Dante Thorpe both score in double digits, logging 14.1 points and 12.1 points, respectively.
In the NCAA Division I RPI, Northern Illinois is ranked No. 225 of 351 programs. CMU holds the No. 195 position, which is 59 spots worse than where the Chippewas were last week.
Buffalo, which holds a 16-5 record overall and 8-0 record in conference play, has the highest RPI rank in the MAC at No. 26.
Last season, Northern Illinois came out on top twice against CMU, winning 87-83 at home and 89-66 on the road at McGuirk Arena. In the Chippewas' home loss, Marcus Keene scored 18 points.
Under Davis, CMU is 4-6 against the Huskies.