CMU men's basketball drops home game to Ohio

Sophomore center Markus Harding shoots a three during a game against Ohio Saturday, Feb. 18 in McGuirk Arena. Harding shot 71.4% on the floor and went 2-2 on the free-throw line.

Dwight Wilson III, a graduate student from Ohio University, caught a pass about two feet away from the basket, finishing the play off with a dunk right in front of the home student section with less than five minutes remaining in the first half.

The easy hoop for Wilson marked the first time Ohio (16-11, 8-6) had led Central Michigan men’s basketball (10-17, 5-9) in Saturday’s game. It was also the last time the Chippewas would lead for the remainder of the contest. 

With its offense faltering as the game went on, the defense wasn’t able to pick up the slack as CMU fell to the Bobcats, 76-59.  

“It was just OK,” head coach Tony Barbee said of his defense. “Just OK. Obviously, we weren’t good enough.”

The Chippewas got out to a fast start due to their ability to get to the rim taking a 20-7 lead in the first 10 minutes. Fifteen of their first 20 points came from either the free throw line or inside the paint while shooting 8-of-10 from the floor during that span.

Sophomore center Markus Harding was a catalyst for CMU’s offense during the first half, making the most of his post-up opportunities with a variety of moves on his way to eight points. 

“Yesterday I put a lot of work in,” Harding said. “Repetition, repetition, repetition of what I was gonna try to do during the game. So, when I got the ball, it was kind of easy to me. (I worked on) a side move, the ‘shimmy,’ a lot. So, it just felt comfortable doing it right away.”

Freshman point guard Reggie Bass also put the ball in the basket registering 11 points in the first half for the Chippewas. He ended with a game-high 22 points, while Harding finished with 12.

While CMU was getting its shots and subsequent points off in bunches early on, Ohio’s fortune was quite the opposite. The Bobcats had scored just 12 points to the Chippewas’ 23 through the first 10 minutes of play while shooting 4-of-11 on field goals.

However, one look at the scoreboard heading into halftime paints a completely different story. It wasn’t until four minutes remained in the first half that Ohio took its first lead of the game. 

The Bobcats used a 15-2 run allowed by CMU's missed shots and turnovers to put themselves up eight when the halftime buzzer sounded despite only having held the lead for a mere four minutes up to that point. 

“You can’t hand the ball to the other team like we did,” Barbee said. “In the first half up 12, we just handed them the ball. Live-ball turnovers kill you. When you just hand the ball from the other team. It goes from up 12, controlling everything to down eight at the half. It was live-ball turnovers. It’s just ridiculous. We gotta be better against the top half of this league.”

The Chippewas turned the ball over 18 times including 12 in the first half alone. 10 of those were a direct result of Ohio’s defense, which ended with double-digit steals. The Bobcats were credited with 22 points off of turnovers.

While Ohio’s defense brought it back into the game, its second half offense was what ultimately did CMU in.

The Bobcats' field goal percentage and three-point percentage sat above 50% in the final 20 minutes. But more specifically, Ohio caught fire, scoring 24 points in a matter of less than six minutes. That span also saw the Bobcats shoot a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor, 5-of-5 from three-point range and 3-of-3 from the free throw line. 

Overall, Ohio made 13 of its 23 three-point shots while the Chippewas were only able to convert four attempts from long distance, making a pair in each half. They ended up shooting 26.7% from three. 

Leading the way for Ohio was sophomore forward AJ Clayton, who scored 18 points and pulled down four rebounds. Junior guard Jaylin Hunter had 14 points and six assists. He also swiped six of the Bobcats’ 10 steals.

The Chippewas will head to Buffalo to take on the Bulls on Tuesday at 7 p.m. With just four games remaining on the regular season schedule, CMU will look to sweep this year’s series with the Bulls, who sit just one game ahead of the Chippewas as both teams eye a spot in the MAC tournament.