CMU men’s basketball starts strong, falters late in loss to Kent State

Sophomore center Markus Harding jumps at tip-off during a game against Western Michigan Saturday, Jan 28 in McGuirk Arena. Harding had two points and assists.

Feeding off of the energy it gathered from its last outing, Central Michigan men’s basketball came out strong and went toe-to-toe with the top team in the Mid-American Conference on Tuesday night, trailing by just one with 8:55 left to play.

However, the last nine minutes of play showcased the disparity between CMU (8-14, 3-6) and the Golden Flashes of Kent State University (18-4, 8-1), who outscored the Chippewas 20-12 in that span. Kent State went on to win 81-69, extending its winning streak at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center to 18 games.

“We just lost our will to win,” head coach Tony Barbee said.

CMU ran into foul trouble committing 24 fouls while the Golden Flashes had 18 of their own, as both teams spent a considerable amount of time in the bonus. 

Despite the additional free throw opportunities, neither team took full advantage. The Chippewas converted nine of their 17 attempts from the free throw line while Kent State made 21 of its 33 attempts. 

CMU appeared to hold an advantage in the first half behind some effective three-point shooting which propelled them to a 44-41 halftime lead. The Chippewas hoisted 14 first-half shots from distance, connecting on nine of them. Sophomore center Markus Harding was responsible for five of those makes, shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from three in the first 20 minutes and scoring 17 points.

Harding finished the game with a career-high 22 points on 87.5% from the field. He also chipped in four rebounds and an assist, while turning the ball over three times.

The turnover margin hurt CMU’s chances of coming out on top. While the Chippewas only gave the ball away 11 times - one shy of their target mark of 12 or less each game - the Golden Flashes did a better job of protecting the ball with only five of their own.

Freshman guard Reggie Bass swiped three steals and was the only member of CMU to have a takeaway. Offensively, he scored 16 points and dished out a team-high seven assists which all came in the first half. 

CMU senior guard Brian Taylor matched Bass in the scoring column with 16 of his own while collecting three rebounds, an assist and two blocks in 39 minutes of action.

As with many other aspects of the game, it was a tale of two halves for the Chippewas in terms of passing. They recorded 13 first half assists on 17 made field goals. In the second half, they only managed a single assist courtesy of sophomore center Nicolas Pavrette. He finished the game with two points, two rebounds and two assists.

Kent State senior forward Chris Payton had 12 rebounds and four blocks to go along with his team-high 18 points on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting from the field including a handful of dunks.

Each of Kent State’s starters scored in double figures.

In a span of 3:29 during the second half, the Golden Flashes scored 14 consecutive points. They didn’t miss any of their six field goal attempts or two of the free throws they shot. That run ultimately killed any chance for the Chippewas to leave Kent, Ohio with a victory.

The Chippewas will begin the second half of their conference slate on Saturday, when they travel to Toledo to play the Rockets at 7 p.m.