COLUMN: Men's basketball using lessons learned in losses to improve, recommit
Men’s basketball in the Mid-American Conference has been competitive to this point in the 2018-19 season.
Close games throughout the conference have Bowling Green and Buffalo atop the MAC East Division with a 6-1 conference record. Northern Illinois and Toledo lead the MAC West Division with a 4-3 record in the league play.
With a 3-4 record, Central Michigan is tied for second place with Toledo in the MAC West. That record could easily be 5-1 or 6-0.
“I really like where we are as a team,” said head coach Keno Davis. “3-4 puts us somewhere in the middle of the league, but there’s not much difference between a 6-1 Bowling Green and a 0-7 Western Michigan.”
The four MAC games that the Chippewas have dropped have been close. The first was against Bowling Green at home Jan. 12, where they trailed for the majority of the game. CMU came back to take the lead late in the second half, only to collapse at end of regulation and lose in overtime.
Following a win against Northern Illinois University on the road, CMU dropped a home game to Ball State on Jan. 19. Against the Cardinals, it was a game of runs where the Chippewas again trailed until the middle stages of the game, only to have their slight edge slip away again.
“The Ball State game was disappointing. I told the team after the game that it was tough to be upset with them because we’ve had such great effort in practices and games throughout the whole season,” Davis said. “When it’s one game that you’re disappointed but you know that isn’t representative of what your team is.”
The Chippewas dropped a 70-67 decision Jan. 22 to Akron on the road. They were close throughout, but never controlled a lead. That split the season series after CMU defeated the Zips on Jan. 8 at McGuirk Arena in overtime.
Much of the struggles from CMU comes from a lower energy level that they would like to see. After the Ball State loss, senior guard Shawn Roundtree Jr. said that “our energy and focus wasn’t there to start.”
Following a loss on Jan. 26 on the road against the Toledo Rockets, Roundtree and the Chippewas are using their losses as teaching moments.
“We’ve proved we can keep up with anyone in this conference,” Roundtree said. “I feel like these early losses are teaching us valuable lessons and will benefit us in the end.”
Senior guard Larry Austin Jr. said that the senior leadership tandem of him and Roundtree will set the mindset for the rest of the team in terms of energy and taking care of the basketball.
“I know we have a lot of careless turnovers, especially myself,” Austin said. “We just have to do better at taking care of the ball, controlling the game and getting guys in the right spots. Executing plays. At the end of games, we’re just falling through the gameplan.”
Following the loss to the Zips, Roundtree challenged his teammates to do better.
“Recommit yourself to the team, to yourself and to each other,” Roundtree said. “We have to get back to playing with and for each other, when someone’s down pick them up. If we stay together, we can’t be beat.”