CMU basketball falls in heartbreaker to High Point


Senior guard Brian Taylor dribbles the ball during a game against Eastern Illinois Sunday, Nov. 13 in McGuirk Arena.

With 8.9 seconds left on the clock, Central Michigan men's basketball junior guard Jesse Zarzuela charged down the court looking to sink a shot that would secure the team's second win of the season. 

However, after having a 16-point lead in the first half, Zarzuela's shot hit the outside of the rim and the Chippewas fell 68-67 to High Point University on Monday in the opening game of the SoCal Challenge. 

CMU is now 1-4 on the season, while the Panthers improve to 4-1. 

“We don't know how to handle success very well,” said head coach Tony Barbee. “For when we got the 16-point lead, we executed the game plan to the team we defended…And offensively, we were committed to working together for each other to get great shots, and then all of a sudden, we get the big lead, now it's time for me to show what I can do. Let me show what I can do. And we started playing ISO ball and selfish basketball and we took bad shots and let them back in the game at the half.”

For the second game in a row, CMU was without sophomore center Markus Harding. The Chippewas also missed leading scorer, sophomore guard Kevin Miller. Harding and Miller are out for undisclosed reasons. 

Both teams got out to a sluggish start, but CMU eventually pulled away from High Point midway through the first half taking a 16-8 lead after senior center Miroslav Stafl rebounded a missed three-point shot and threw it out to freshman guard Reggie Bass for a second chance three. 

Stafl had a career-high of 10 rebounds. 

With the Panthers struggling offensively, the Chippewas went on a 13-2 run with seven minutes remaining in the first half. To top off CMU's run, Stafl pulled a spin move in the paint for a hook shot layup. Just a minute later he hit a wide-open three assisted by Bass putting the Chippewas ahead 23-11. 

CMU took its largest lead with five minutes remaining until half, as Stafl passed the ball out of the paint to freshman guard Max Majerle standing in the corner for three, moving the score to 29-13. 

Majerle ended the night with 13 points, two rebounds and one steal. He shot 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. 

“Max for us has got to be a guy who spaces the floor because he has the ability to really, really shoot the ball,” Barbee said. “...His role right now is to space the floor and knock down open threes for us and…because of his ability to shoot the ball teams are going to be trying to run him up the three. If he can attack the paint off of that and create a habit, create shots for us that's his other job. And so, he did, he did that good tonight so now he gets to stay on the floor longer.”

At the peak of the Chippewas scoring frenzy, things began to crumble, as the Panther strung together a 12-0 run in four minutes while the CMU went scoreless. 

“It was not our defense that beat us, it was our offense,” Barbee said. “It was our offense. It was their lack of finishing at the rim. It was our lack of knocking down open shots when we had them from behind the perimeter and then we didn't execute very well when it was time to execute.”

A Chippewa turnover led to a High Point layup on the fast break making it a three-point game at the half.  

Despite the Panthers having a 10-point lead in the second half, the Chippewas answered back by going on a 10-0 run while holding High Point scoreless. 

“Well, I thought we did a great job defensively,” Barbee said. “We held them to 35% shooting for the game and 10% shooting from the three. This is a team that depends on beating you from the three-point line and we held them to two for 20. They want to take 30 to 40 threes. We only allowed 20 and then they shot 35% from the floor which means they didn't shoot a high percentage from two.”

Senior guard Brain Taylor led the team with a career-high 18 points while adding seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. 

With less than three minutes remaining, the Panthers took a 66-61 lead as Brya Randleman and Jaden House scored back-to-back layups as they locked up the win.

House led the game with 26 points, while Randleman had 10. Emman Izunabor added 12 rebounds. 

Zarzuela finished with 13 points, three assists and one rebound. McCaskill had a season-high 11 points and nine rebounds. 

The Chippewas be back in action on Wednesday at 3 p.m. facing off against Cal State Northridge in the final game of the SoCal Challenge.