Kevin McKay, David DiLeo help Central Michigan hold off Youngstown State for win
More than an hour and a half before game time, senior forward David Dileo sat alone and gathered his thoughts before stepping onto the hardwood at McGuirk Arena in a yellow warmup.
A few people wandered the stands, but for the most part, it was just him and a basketball repeatedly swishing through the net.
“It wasn’t about being the first guy in the gym today,” DiLeo said after the game. “It can be hard with a bunch of balls flying around, so I just wanted it to be me and the basket.”
DiLeo entered Saturday’s contest coming off of a game against DePaul where he missed all eight of his 3-point tries. Still, DiLeo said he was confident.
"All my shots are feeling good even if they don't go in," DiLeo said. "My coaches and teammates have all the confidence in me, so I'm going to continue to be ready to knock it in when the ball comes to me."
The shooter's confidence paid off, and he was instrumental in the Central Michigan men’s basketball team's 88-72 win Saturday over Youngstown State where he shot 3-8 from behind the arc.
One of DiLeo’s 3-pointers came with 6:14 left in the second half. Youngstown State had gone on a 10-point run, cutting the lead to just six before DiLeo gave the Chippewas a 12-point lead.
Senior forward Kevin McKay was also a key factor in closing out the Penguins.
The play before DiLeo’s basket, McKay was fouled as he made a jump shot in the paint and converted the and-one.
A minute later, McKay stole a pass by YSU guard Garrett Covington, which turned into an uncontested two-handed dunk on the other end.
“In a game where you’re playing a physical team and buckets are hard to come by, it always feels great to get a steal and a ‘gimmie bucket,’” McKay said. “It was good for the team. Whenever a guy can get a dunk, its always an energizer.”
McKay’s high-flying finish put the Penguins away as the Chippewas (6-2) kept a commanding lead until the clock hit triple zeros.
Following a loss against DePaul where the Chippewas failed to retain an 18-point first half lead, coach Keno Davis said the team was well-composed late against YSU.
“The game at DePaul was something we needed to experience," Davis said. "The other team came out with energy in the second half, and we weren’t able to respond the way we wanted to. In this game, when things were going against us, we were calmer and were more composed on the bench.”
Davis also credited the win Saturday to the momentum found in big plays from the team’s leaders.
“(DiLeo and McKay) were big. When games come down to the wire, you’re looking for your best players,” Davis said. “More than that, I think the guys with the most experience tend to make the right plays, get the ball to the right guy and turn down shots for better ones.”
McKay, who returned to the starting lineup, replacing Travon Broadway Jr., finished the game with his fourteenth career double-double. He had 24 points, 11 rebounds — six offensive rebounds — and two steals.
The Youngstown State bench outscored CMU’s by 20 points (37-17). However, four CMU starters finished the game in double digits — McKay (24), DiLeo (16), Devontae Lane (14) and Rob Montgomery (10).
Dallas Morgan, who is averaging almost 16 points a game this season, was the only starter to score fewer than 10 points. Although, he was able to contribute seven points and three rebounds to the winning cause.
Next up, the Chippewas face Tennessee-Martin (3-4) at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6 in McGuirk Arena.