Men's basketball rides six-game win streak into conference home opener with Akron

Sophomore forward Romelo Burrell is double teamed and looks to get rid of the ball on Dec. 30 at McGuirk Arena.

Riding a six-game winning streak which included a perfect month of December, the Central Michigan men’s basketball team has found a rhythm that has resulted in victories piling up.

As a result, head coach Keno Davis said the team just feels good about themselves right now. 

“We’ve liked the progress of this years team,” Davis said. “We’ve gained a lot of experience from different teams in the nonconference, but there is still some uncertainty as we start conference play.”

While it is early in Mid-American Conference play, CMU (12-2, 1-0 MAC) did pass its first test with a 84-77 road victory over Miami (OH) this past weekend. 

Transfer forward Rob Montgomery led the team in scoring for the first time this season with 18 points while senior guard Shawn Roundtree added 15 tallies of his own. Junior forward David DiLeo (11) and senior guard Larry Austin Jr. (10) both reached double figures in scoring, respectively.

The RedHawks (8-6, 0-1) trailed for most of the game but made things interesting in the final five minutes. They were down 68-64 when the Chippewas went on a 6-0 run to lead by 10 with less than three minutes to go. Miami would never get back within seven points.

“I really like the way we were able to react to a road crowd and some missed shots or tough calls,” Davis said. “We’re going to have to be able to do that kind of stuff not just on the road but all the way through conference to be able to get wins.”

The Chippewas will now continue MAC play with their first conference home game at 7 p.m. on Jan. 8 against Akron in McGuirk Arena.

The Zips (9-5, 1-0) are currently riding a two-game win streak with a 56-48 victory over Western Michigan to start league play.

“It’s going to be a grind and Akron is the next one up,” Davis said. “Sometimes you come into a season with it being a lot less taxing knowing you have teams coming up you are better than. This year, even the top team in our league in Buffalo realizes every game they play is a chance to take a loss.

“With Akron, we just want to keep making small improvements and get away from some mistakes we made against Miami, work closer to becoming a finished product.”

Scouting Akron

Back in November, the Zips gave the then-ranked No. 16 Clemson Tigers a close game with a 72-69 loss. Akron defeated Chicago State by 30-plus points, a team who CMU downed 101-60.

Second year head coach John Groce is the man in charge for the Zips following a 14-18 record in 2017-18 with a 6-12 record in MAC play. 

The Zips boast three players who score in the top-25 of the league. At No. 12 is junior forward Daniel Utomi (15.5), No. 19 is redshirt sophomore forward Loren Cristian Jackson (13.7) and No. 21 is senior guard Jimond Ivey (13.5). Expect Montgomery and DiLeo to defend Utomi and Jackson.

Akron has the MAC’s best scoring defense, allowing just 60.4 points per game. The Chippewas counter with the best scoring offense in the league at 87.7 points per outing.