Three takeaways: What we learned in first game of Tony Barbee era

Shawnee Mission, Kansas freshman Jack Webb looks on during a drill during practice prior to the Central Michigan men's basketball team's maroon and white scrimmage Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 inside McGuirk Arena.

Central Michigan fell behind by 19 points, nearly came all the way back, then made critical mistakes in crunch time. 

In the program's first game under Tony Barbee, the Chippewas season opener had its ups and downs. Missouri served as a tough test, operating with a unique blend of size and outside shooting that gave CMU fits for long stretches. 

There were positives and negatives from the opener, a non-conference game that will serve as a measuring stick for the rest of the season. 

Here are three takeaways from the 78-68 loss: 

Second-half rally spoiled by crunch time mistakes

After Missouri dominated the late stretch of the first half and took a 16-point lead into the locker room, CMU bounced back with fury coming out. The Tigers would stretch the lead to 19 points with a 3-pointer, but soon watched their advantage evaporate. 

With their backs against the wall, the Chippewas discovered two reliable scoring options in Miroslav Stafl and Jermaine Jackson Jr. The latter finished with 19 points while Stafl added 15. 

Stafl got the rally going, hitting a triple to cut the lead to 12 and another to trim it to seven. With the lead down to six and 4:09 remaining, the Czech Republic native hit two free throws and then a layup to get CMU within two. 

However, they'd never get any closer as the mistakes took over. 

"Winning time is something we talk about and work on," Barbee said. "The last four minutes of the game (are) where you can't beat yourself. You (have to) make them do something spectacular to beat you. We didn't do that." 

In this case, Missouri responded to Stafl's mini-run with a 3-pointer from senior Javon Pickett. Four ensuing free throws upped the Tigers' lead to nine, but Jackson hit a triple to get CMU back within six. 

On the next possession, the Chippewas stopped the Tigers but failed to secure the rebound. This allowed Missouri forward Kobe Brown to split a pair of free throws. After Jackson hit another trey, CMU again failed to secure a Tiger miss and Brown once again capitalized with a layup. 

Webb provides spark

Though he didn't record a point, freshman walk-on Jack Webb served as a catalyst in the Chippewa rally. The Leawood, Kansas freshman checked in for the first time with 16:29 remaining and his team down 12. 

Webb immediately made a difference, leaping for loose rebounds and diving on the floor. 

"He gave us a spark in the second half," Barbee said. "When I made the sub to go to Jack, that's when the score flipped and things changed. Because he's just a guy that does everything right." 

Webb finished with two rebounds, an assist and a +4 rating in 15 minutes. More than any tangible stat, however, his effort impressed his coach. 

"I should've went to Jack earlier, in the first half," Barbee said. "Because one of the things he does is, he's not afraid. He goes out there and gives it his all. He knows all the plays, he's in the right places defensively." 

Struggles on defense, rebounding create big deficit

After 10 minutes of game time, the Chippewas held a 19-16 lead. For the most part, the rebounding margin was neck and neck within the opening 10 minutes. However, when Missouri began to dominate the boards, CMU was quickly left in the dust. 

First, it was back-to-back treys that allowed Missouri to establish its lead. Jarron Coleman would hit three first-half 3-pointers, and the sprint was on. While the Chippewas struggled from beyond the arc, the duo of Coleman and Pickett were a combined 4-of-7. 

In the second half, the Chippewas answered by experimenting with a 1-3-1 zone. This decision worked, as the Tigers cooled off and allowed CMU to crawl back quickly. 

"We've gotta be able to guard better out of our man-to-man," Barbee said. "We had to go zone to be able to keep them in front of us, to keep them from driving us. You've gotta be able to then rebound out of the zone and we didn't do that." 

In the final 3:09, Missouri outscored CMU 14-6. Before that, CMU's defense stifled the Tigers and had outscored them 31-19 in the second half. A large part of that success came with the zone defense. 

However, this wasn't able to offset the damage done by struggles on the glass. Missouri beat CMU on the boards, 44-31, and scored 18 second chance points. 

"The fight that I wanna see is on the backboard," Barbee said. "We've gotta be able to win the battle on the backboard and we got dominated on the glass."