CMU shocks the Wolverines in Ann Arbor: "A big step along the way"

Freshman guard Reggie Bass brings the ball up the court during a game against Michigan on Thursday, Dec. 29 at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.

ANN ARBOR -- With 11 seconds remaining on the clock. freshman guard Reggie Bass pulled an almost double-clutch jump shot with a defender in his face, softly finding the bottom of the net giving the Chippewas a two-point lead over the University of Michigan. 

The home crowd fell silent, leaving a small section behind the away bench to erupt in cheers.

Central Michigan (5-8) escaped the heat of the late-game intensity with a 63-61 victory over the University of Michigan (7-5). riding the momentum they had created from the first half all the way to the final buzzer on Dec. 29. It was their first win over the Wolverines since Dec. 3, 2002.

“It’s up there,” said head coach Tony Barbee regarding the importance of the historic win, 20 years in the making. “It's up there from Final Fours, Elite Eights, conference championships, this is as good as any of them when you're trying to build a young program. And hopefully we can build off of this. 

"You know, I talked to the guys about this: In life, and in basketball, there's opportunities that come in front of you that you're either ready for when you take advantage of them, or they pass you by.”

The first half was not kind to either team, as both were held well under 50% shooting from the field, with CMU hitting 40% of its shots (12-of-30) while Michigan made 37% (10-of-27). The Wolverines' shooting improved from behind the three-point line, as they hit 40% of their first-half threes, while the Chippewas only managed to make two of its 15 attempts. Michigan’s overall shooting percentage was hurt by the performance of its bench, as the unit made just one of its six shots.

CMU senior guard Brian Taylor got off to a fast start on the court. Less than a minute into action, Taylor made his presence felt by blocking a dunk attempt of Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin. Minutes later, he connected on a tough second-chance fading jump shot near the top of the key with a hand in his face. Taylor led the Chippewas through the first half, scoring 10 of his 12 points. 

With the first half coming to a close, Bass offered a preview of what was to come, as he connected on a three pointer with 20 seconds left to give CMU the lead. The Wolverines answered with a three of their own, courtesy of senior guard Joey Baker, to take the lead going into the break.

Bass ended the game with 16 points and seven rebounds, while only turning the ball over once. In addition to registering 12 points, Taylor had four rebounds and three assists, along with a single turnover of his own.

Coming into the matchup against the Wolverines, the importance of escaping Ann Arbor with a win was not lost on Bass, despite his young age. With the team missing starting point guard Kevin Miller, Bass has had to step up in the role for a majority of the Chippewas’ season. 

“I mean, it’s a lot of motivation,” said Bass. “Not too many people get to play in crowds like this. So, with an environment like this, and then you get lifetime experience (as well) just make the best out of it. We made the best out of it by winning the game.”

CMU outrebounded Michigan 44-32, 17 of which were offensive rebounds. The Chippewas turned those into 23 second-chance points, while the Wolverines were only credited with nine. The Wolverines claim one of the most dangerous big men in all of college basketball in Hunter Dickinson, a 7-foot-1, 260-pound center, who makes a presence down low. But the Chippewas still managed to largely contain him, as he pulled down six rebounds to go with 13 points on 3-of-9 shooting.

“It wasn’t the main focus, but it was one of them,” Barbee said. “We wanted to keep them away from the offensive glass and I thought our zone did that. Because like I said, it kept their big guys away from the basket. And on the offensive end of the floor, and it started with Markus Harding. He really got us going with the offensive rebounds.”

At the end of the day, Barbee has to balance the excitement of a big win with the knowledge that his team still has quite a way to go.

“The growth process doesn’t stop, and we are not there by any means,” Barbee said. “This was just a big step along the way. But we have a certain system that we talked about in winning time. Winning time is the last four minutes of the game where one of those things that's on the list is playing with poise, playing with composure, regardless of what happens, and I thought tonight we did that and didn't get flustered when things weren't going well for us on either end of the floor.”

CMU begins its conference slate on Jan. 3, as Miami (OH) travels to Mount Pleasant to take on the Chippewas at 7 p.m.