Injury bug effects CMU men's basketball in loss to BGSU

Junior guard Jesse Zarzuela tries to put up a tough shot Tuesday Jan. 24, in McGuirk Arena.

Central Michigan fans entering McGuirk Arena on Tuesday night were given noisemakers, or “Thunder Stix” as they filed in to watch CMU men’s basketball face off against a Mid-American Conference foe.

However, the noisemakers did little to raise the energy level in the arena as the Chippewas (7-13, 2-5) lost to Bowling Green (10-10, 4-3) 83-61. The defeat marked CMU’s fifth loss in its last six games.

CMU head coach Tony Barbee indicated that health was a factor in the Chippewas’ ability to prepare for the Falcons in the days leading up to game time.

“You know, Bowling Green was the better team, not taking anything away from them, but we've just been ravaged with the flu bug the last 72 hours,” Barbee said. “We’re drained, I’m drained. We had no life, and we had no energy. We haven’t practiced in 48 hours because of this flu. They were the better team and we just didn’t have it tonight.”

CMU was plagued by a familiar issue: a slow start due to poor shooting. Sophomore center Nicolas Pavrette got the first scratch for the Chippewas via a quick offensive rebound and a second chance shot just moments into the game, giving CMU its only lead of the night.

The Chippewas would not cross the five-point threshold until about five minutes into the first half when freshman forward Ola Ajiboye made a jump shot to cut the deficit to 10 with a score of 16-6.

Ajiboye finished the game with seven points, a team-high four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.

On the flip side, the Falcons scored 16 points in the first seven minutes only missing two field goals.

When the halftime buzzer sounded, the Falcons had shot 67.9% from the floor and 57.1% from distance. Meanwhile, CMU only converted 27.6% of its first-half shots.

CMU managed to find its footing late in the second half, during which it outscored the Falcons 25-15. However, the run only allowed the Chippewas to cut the deficit to 21 - the lowest it would settle at for the remainder of the game.

Between illness and the slow start, only one Chippewa finished the game with double-digit points. Junior guard Jesse Zarzuela scored a team-high 24 points off the bench. The Coppin State transfer’s scoring performance also tied for a game-high mark with senior BGSU guard Leon Ayers III.

“It felt good to be back out there battling with my brothers,” Zarzuela said after missing the previous game due to illness. “Not feeling the best (physically), but it’s going to be alright.”

CMU was outrebounded by BGSU 39-23 despite only grabbing two fewer offensive rebounds than the Falcons, a product of the Chippewas’ struggles shooting.

Aside from Zarzuela’s scoring at the top of the list, freshman guard Reggie Bass followed behind him in points with eight, along with a pair of assists and rebounds. Senior guard Brian Taylor had seven points, three rebounds and two steals.

CMU is back at McGuirk Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m. as the Chippewas take on rivals, Western Michigan.