'We have to be better individually offensively': CMU drops game against Ball State

Senior guard Brian Taylor dunks the ball during the game against Ball State on Tuesday, Feb. 7 in McGuirk Arena. Taylor lead the Chippewas in scoring with 20 points.

Five-consecutive points from freshman guard Amani Drummond pushed Central Michigan men's basketball lead to six in the early portion of its game as it continued to control the tempo after just over 10 minutes played.

However, CMU (8-16, 3-8) ended up falling by double-digits for the third-consecutive game, losing to Ball State University (17-7, 8-3) 65-51 on Tuesday. 

The Chippewas struggled on the offensive side of the ball and ended the game shooting below 35% as a team as it went 19 of 56 from the field.

“Our best players are out in sweatsuits,” said head coach Tony Barbee. “And the other guys right now aren’t producing. Offensively, individuals have got to be better. How many one-footers did we miss? How many wide-open jump shots did we miss? We have to be better individually offensively.”

The Chippewas had control of the momentum over the first five minutes of the game going into the first media timeout. In that time, CMU registered a quick 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and bucked its recent trend of slow starts to games as a result of poor shooting. Leading the charge early was sophomore center Markus Harding, who scored all of his seven first-half points before the first stoppage of play.

Harding finished the game with 11 points and three rebounds. He was among just two Chippewas to score in double-digits. The other being senior guard Brian Taylor, who scored a game-high 20 points and contributed seven rebounds, a block and two steals.

The Chippewas didn’t maintain the hot hand for the entirety of the first half making 12 of their 32 attempts, while Ball State went 14-for-29 over the first 20 minutes.

Freshman guard Reggie Bass particularly struggled in shooting efficiency, making just two of his 17 attempts from the floor and a single three-point shot on eight tries. He finished with a game-high eight assists and chipped in three rebounds.

The Cardinals took the lead for the first time with 6:39 remaining in the first half, going up 23-21 following a transition dunk from Ball State sophomore guard Jaylin Sellers, who grabbed a defensive rebound and took the ball coast-to-coast to secure the lead for his team. From that point forward, CMU would not lead again.

The Chippewas got outrebounded 21-16 by the Cardinals in the first half. While they managed to grab more offensive rebounds than Ball State by the final buzzer, CMU grabbed 29 rebounds overall while the Cardinals pulled down 37, a large result of the Chippewas’ shooting struggles.

For the second game in a row, CMU was without junior guard and second-leading scorer Jesse Zarzuela, who was wearing a wrap on his right wrist on the bench.

“Obviously with the injury to Jesse’s hand, you’re (missing) a guy who is a veteran player that is capable of going for 30 points in any game,” Barbee said. “Clearly that hurt us.”

On the defensive end, Barbee was much more satisfied with his team’s performance.

“Today, I thought we played two really good halves defensively,” Barbee said. “I thought we competed, and I thought we battled. We gave effort for two halves. If we play like that the rest of the year, we’ll give ourselves a chance in every game.”

The defensive effort Barbee talked about translated to the box score, as the team ended with seven steals and four blocked shots.

Contributing to both of those tallies was Taylor, who led the Chippewas in blocks coming into the game and ranked second in steals. However, Taylor wasn’t completely satisfied, as the defense didn’t translate to winning.

“It could have been a lot better,” Taylor said. “I know when we watch the film, we’ll see a lot of mistakes. But it’s been better than the past few games so we’re going in the right direction I think.”

CMU will hit the road on Saturday when it is set to play against Miami (Ohio) at 3:30 p.m. in Oxford.