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CMU men fall short at UIC in season opener


Central Michigan guard Travon Broadway Jr. drives against Northern Illinois Jan. 7 at McGuirk Arena.

CMU has a lot of new faces on its men's basketball team going into the 2020-21 season. 

In the Chippewas' season opener, there were a lot of growing pains, but a lot of positive points in a 74-72 loss to Illinois-Chicago on Saturday in Credit Union 1 Arena. 

A couple of the new guys started the Chippewa offense in Saturday's game. A positive note for CMU and coach Keno Davis.

Junior guard Meikkel Murray opened the Chippewa scoring with a jumper and scored the Chippewas' first four points. 

Another junior guard, Caleb Huffman, scored his first bucket of the season with a jumper and gave the Chippewas their first lead of the season at the 12:35 mark of the first half. 

Huffman scored eight points in the first half -- including CMU's first 3-pointer of the season -- as the team pushed its lead to as many as five. 

However, the Flames took advantage of CMU mistakes to finish the first half on a 9-1 run led by 13 points from junior forward Braelen Bridges. The Flames also shot shot 50 percent from both the field (18-36) and 3-point range (4-8) in the first half. 

Meanwhile, CMU shot 39.3 percent (11-28) from the field and 9.1 percent (1-11) from beyond the arc in the first half. The Flames carried a 43-31 lead to the break. 

Both teams came out of the gate in the second half slowly with CMU closing the deficit down to as close as eight a couple times within the first 10 minutes. 

Eventually, Huffman led a charge to cut the Flame lead to four with 10:21 to play. 

Senior guard Travon Broadway paced the offense with a couple of buckets early in the second half and Huffman supplemented the Chippewa offense. 

As the final buzzer drew near, Huffman led another charge, including a 5-1 run in the final 13 seconds to bring Central Michigan to within two points in the game's final seconds. 

Huffman finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and hit the only two CMU triples. Broadway ended the game with 15 points. Murray also finished in double digits with 12 points. 

Junior forward Matt Beachler, who redshirted last season, found himself in the scorebook for the first time since March 2019 with four points. 

UIC Junior guard RayQuawndis Mitchell led the Flames with 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 shooting from outside. 

Outside shooting was the difference in Saturday's game. UIC finished the game shooting 43.8 percent (7-16) from beyond the arc and CMU shot 11.1 percent (2-18) from 3-point range. 

CMU also struggled at the free throw line, shooting 64.3 percent (18-28) while the Flames hit 68 percent of their free throw attempts (17-25). UIC also outrebounded the Chippewas 46-34. 

Defensively, CMU forced 19 turnovers, 16 steals and five blocks. Murray led with five steals, including a steal in the game's final seconds before launching a half-court heave. Huffman added three steals. 

Up next, the Chippewas travel to face Florida International at 7 p.m. Tuesday in FIU Ocean Bank Arena.