Injuries plague men’s basketball in loss to Toledo

North Miami senior Ralph Bissainthe, left, and Detroit junior Brian Taylor, right, block their Toledo opponent, Tuesday, Jan. 4, in McGuirk Arena.

Down multiple key players, containing the fourth-best offense in the Mid-American Conference was going to be a challenge for Central Michigan men’s basketball.

After a scorching start in McGuirk Arena, the Chippewas struggled to contain Toledo’s offense down the stretch. The Chippewas ultimately lost, 82-54, on Tuesday.

“Obviously a tough one tonight, we were feeling pretty good about our performance at Kent State, and you hope that it’ll be one of those things where you catapult yourself, and you hope it can be a springboard to good things,” said assistant coach Chris McMillian. “Today we took a step back. Ten minutes (into) the game, it was a four possession game and it just got away from us.”

CMU falls to 1-1 in the MAC and 2-11 overall. With the win, Toledo improves to 10-4 on the year and 2-1 in conference play.

The Chippewas took the floor without two key starters, as guards Cam Healy and Oscar Lopez Jr. weren’t in the arena. Forward Miroslav Stafl wasn’t available either due to a knee injury. 

Head coach Tony Barbee gave the starting nod to guards Jermaine Jackson Jr. and Brian Taylor, and when the game began, CMU didn’t miss a beat on offense.

Toledo opened the first half firing from three. Freshman guard Kevin Miller matched the pace, as the Chippewas kept it close through the 10 minutes. Then the MAC’s leading scorer caught fire.

Although CMU locked down guard Ryan Rollins early, he found his rhythm and tallied 12 points in the first half. With the Chippewas helping to stop Rollins, Toledo began to rely on forward JT Shumate, who added 12-points of his own putting CMU down 11 at the break.

“I think we fought early, I think we scored the basketball well early, we’re just starting to hit these lulls where we can’t score,” McMillian said. “Not for nothing, our defense in the second half they shot 41%. We want to keep teams in the low forties we just gotta find a way to do it for 40-minutes.”

Both teams struggled offensively as the second half began. A 10-4 run drew the Chippewas within five of Toledo before things took a turn for the home team.

Barbee looked to his bench for help as CMU struggled to close out on shooters. Fresh legs helped the situation momentarily, as the Rockets’ shooting percentage fell. Toledo adjusted and focused on working the interior, stringing together a 10-1 run. 

The Rockets lost Shumate late as he received his fifth foul, but the Chippewas never recovered as Toledo rode 18 second-half points in the paint to victory.

Miller set the pace for CMU with 14 points, four assists and three rebounds. Forward Harrison Henderson finished close behind with 13 points while snagging six rebounds. 

Toledo’s Rollins led all players in points with 21 while shooting a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.

The Rockets scored 38 points in the paint, 22 more than CMU. 

The Chippewas welcome Western Michigan to McGuirk Arena on Saturday, at 7 p.m.