Emotional roller coaster: Men's basketball rides its way to the MAC semifinal
Head coach Keno Davis was the level head in the MAC quarterfinal just as he has been all season
Hands on his hips, staring down the same intensity that he has all season. There was the occasional dropped jaw in disbelief.
There was plenty of yelling and scowling.
In the first 10 minutes of the No. 5 Central Michigan men's basketball team's 89-81 victory in the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinal against No. 4 Kent State was undoubtedly frustrating for head coach Keno Davis and the Chippewas.
His team was able to execute on the offensive end, shooting 42 percent from the field in the first half. On the other end, CMU (23-10) struggled to do the same.
The Golden Flashes (22-10) were able to score 34 points on 40 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes of action.
One of the biggest frustrations that Davis seemed to have was with the officiating crew. It appeared that the Chippewas were fighting through a lot of contact and were fouled on many of their possessions, with no calls. On the other end, KSU seemed to have every whistle go in its favor.
CMU had six fouls in less than nine minutes into the game. Davis had a noticeable scowl on his face as he barked at the officials multiple times.
Almost exactly at the halfway point of the first half, junior guard Kevin McKay was fouled on a shot and from that point on, the frustration for Davis and his group began to subside.
The Chippewas were able to find their stride towards the end of the first half, leading by 11 at one point.
There was a sense of relief and elation on the Chippewas as they took the double-digit lead, that shrunk to eight at the halftime intermission.
Davis said that first half roller coaster was indicative of how CMU plays.
"It's been a unique season," Davis said. "We have great runs and not so great runs, we're able to shoot great from the perimeter and not so great. We're able to make a bunch of free throws in a row and miss a bunch in a row.
"The thing I've learned most from this team is that I have to keep a level head."
Senior guard Shawn Roundtree was at the forefront of the elation as he hit five 3-pointers to give himself 15 points in the first half. After the fourth triple he drained, he was leaning forward, clapping his hands with his tongue in his cheek as if saying, "we are here to play."
Roundtree picked up two fouls in the first half and was forced to the bench, not for long as he played all but two minutes in the opening frame. Even on the bench, he was the emotional leader and would cheer his teammates on, standing up with each make rebound and loose ball opportunity.
The Edwardsville, Illinois native said that this tournament has meant the everything to him and his teammates.
"We work all year to get to this point," Roundtree said. "To come down here, handle business in the first game, that's what we work for. It's a great win, as (Davis) said, credit Kent State but give credit to our guys."
That run at the end of the first half would slowly unravel as the Golden Flashes began to cut through their deficit to CMU.
KSU would only lead for a total of 90 seconds in the game, and its largest lead was two points in the first half.
For Davis, maintaining composure in the face of chaos helped solidify his team's berth in the MAC semifinals.
"It's tough to be upset with a team because they play so hard," Davis said. "As a coach you just have to live with it and learn that's the makeup of this team. I think that because of playing that hard, they've been able to improve.
"The runs that went on in this game were pretty representative of this team."
Roundtree picked up his fourth foul with 9:56 remaining in the game. He walked to the bench with his head down, drapping a towel over his head.
He did not sit for long as he was subbed in slightly less than four minutes after picking up his fourth foul. Roundtree maintained composure playing on the edge of disqualification in order to help lead his team to victory.
"Our main thing was just don't get outside of ourselves, do what we've been doing all year," Roundtree said. "Do that for 40 minutes and we have a pretty good shot of winning the game. Our guys stayed composed the whole game and we finished out."
Fellow senior guard Larry Austin Jr. filled the void left by Roundtree throughout the second half against KSU with his stealing ability. He accumulated three of them, all in the second half, to prevent the Golden Flashes from taking the game over.
Austin said basketball is a game of runs, and it is understood that each team would make them throughout the game. The difference between winning and losing games is how teams handle those runs.
"They made their run, it's time for us to make our run and we have to continue to do that and just continue to get stops," Austin said. "After we make our run, we have to continue to get stops. If we get three stops in a row, the team is shut down but we just have to continue to get stops."
That composure helped the Chippewas earn a matchup against Buffalo in the MAC semifinal on March 15.