Chippewas rally, fall to Missouri in season opener

Junior guard Brian Taylor goes for a layup on Fri. November 5 in McGuirk Arena.

On a night of firsts, Central Michigan nearly pulled off a stunner. 

Despite a tremendous effort, Central Michigan fell short, losing 78-68 to Missouri Tuesday night.

"Just came up a little bit short," said Chippewa coach Tony Barbee. "Didn't make enough plays in winning time, and (Missouri) made some big plays down the stretch." 

How it happened

Getting the start at point guard in his first collegiate game, freshman Kevin Miller scored the Chippewas' first bucket with an impressive right-handed floater. Graduate transfer Jermaine Jackson Jr. hit his first three attempts from beyond the arc to give CMU a 19-16 lead. 

Missouri answered right away with a triple from Ball State transfer Jarron Coleman, tying the game and setting off an 8-0 run. The Chippewas would get as close as 25-23, but the Tigers finished the first half on a 20-6 run to take a 45-29 lead into halftime. 

Not to be outdone, the Chippewas returned with a vengeance. Junior forward Miroslav Stafl  scored eight points in the second half's first eight minutes to help cut Missouri's lead to seven. Miller hit from beyond-the-arc to make it just a four-point game with 11:22 remaining. 

The Tigers responded with an 8-0 run over the next 5:19 to up their advantage to 12 points. The Chippewas responded with a 6-0 spurt, highlighted by a three-point play by Aundre Polk, to cut the lead to six. 

After trading buckets, Stafl made it 64-60 with two free throws, then 64-62 with a baseline layup. Missouri clapped back when Javon Pickett nailed a 3-pointer to bring the lead back to five. 

The Chippewas missed triples on each of their ensuing possessions. The Tigers answered with four consecutive free throws to extend the lead to nine. Jackson hit two late threes, but back-to-back defensive lapses led to second chance points for Missouri.

"Winning time is something we talk about and work on," Barbee said. "The last four minutes of the game where you can't beat yourself and you've gotta make them do something spectacular to beat you. And we didn't do that, we gave them offensive rebounds, we fouled on an offensive rebound to give them free throws. We made a lot of mistakes down the stretch."  

Key performers

Jackson led the Chippewas with a game-high 19 points, while Stafl finished with 15. Miller finished with seven points and Brian Taylor had a team-high eight rebounds. 

"I feel like I was a leader out there today," Jackson said. "I mean, I kept my team intact, we went through adversity like coach told us, just trying to get the guys together. "

Key stats

The Chippewas were out rebounded 44-31 and allowed 18 second chance points. 

"The fight that I want to see is on the backboard," Barbee said. "We didn't win the battle of the backboard, we got dominated on the glass at a minus-13." 

What's next

CMU remains on the road, heading to take on DePaul at 6 p.m. Saturday at Wintrust Arena.