CMU men's basketball defeats Eastern Illinois in home opener


Sophomore center Markus Harding dunks the ball during a game against Eastern Illinois Sunday, Nov. 13 in McGuirk Arena.

363 days ago Central Michigan basketball took the court against the Eastern Illinois Panthers and secured its first win of the season with a buzzer beater. 

This year things looked a little different. In the company of Chippewa fans, CMU jumped on the Panthers early in their home opener at McGuirk Arena with a 76-60 win on Sunday. 

The Chippewas are now 1-1 on the season and the Panthers fall to 0-3. 

“I thought we got better from the first game to today,'' head coach Tony Barbee. "And now we just got to continue that progression every day. We want to get you know a percentage better as individuals and as a team…you want to see growth throughout the year.”

The Chippewas got off to a hectic start as multiple guys on the floor were tripped up looking for an open teammate. CMU slowed down as freshman guard Reggie Bass scored under the basket putting the Chippewas up 10-6. 

Bass ended the day with seven points. 

CMU was led by Bass, sophomore center Markus Harding and sophomore guard Kevin Miller for the majority of the first half. But the rest of the team made their appearance with rebounds and assists. 

“Today I thought we came in with a focused mindset in our defense, Barbee said. "And then our rebounding is not just our base, our defense, especially defensive rebounding, is about every all five guys on the floor hunting and tracking that ball.”

In his first game in McGuirk Arena, Harding shined with 19 points and eight rebounds. He recorded nine of CMUs first 16 points.

“We had to play with a certain kind of chip on our shoulder,” Harding said. “And kind of an aggression also on the court with the rebounds, offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds and looking out for each other… playing our basketball and my self’s basketball and that's what we kind of did today.”

Senior guard Brian Taylor finished the game with a career-high of 13 rebounds, a career-high of four blocks and eight points. 

“I mean that's what you expect from your veteran players,'' Barbee said. “Brian now a three-year college player…is he got to have that line every game? Maybe not. But he's got to have that kind of impact every game as a veteran player.”

With nine minutes remaining in the first half Miller pulled a 360 spin move and located Bass beyond the arc for a three-point shot. 

28 seconds later Bass rebounded a missed shot by EIU and passed it off to Miller as he stood on the three-point line. Miller banked it to take the Chippewas up 23-11.

The Panthers couldn't contain Miller throughout the game as he led all players with 23 points and nine assists.

CMU went into the locker room leading 42-21. 

The Panthers were not giving up without a fight after the half cutting the Chippewas lead down to as low as 13 with less than four minutes to play. 

Junior guard Kinyon Hodges led the Panthers with 10 points. Freshman guard Kyle Thomas and freshman forward Sincere Malone both added eight points.

"For us to have the kind of year that we want to have, we don't want to lose at home," Barbee said. "You've got to protect your home court. If you want to make it to the postseason, you cannot let games slip at home. I thought we played with that type of intensity and desperation early, but we got success, we didn't know how to handle it.”

The Chippewas head to Minnesota on Thursday to take on the Gophers at 8 p.m.