CMU men's basketball get first win of the season at South Florida

ULM's senior forward Nika Metskhvarishvili prepares to block CMU' s junior guard Anthony Pritchard, Saturday, Nov. 11, in McGuirk Arena. (CM-Life | Nico Mendoza)

With the game knotted at 29 nearing the end of the first half, Anthony Pritchard made a step back jumper with eight seconds remaining giving Central Michigan men's basketball a two-point lead heading into halftime.

CMU rode the momentum in the second half, pulling away on an eventual 14-4 run that extended the Chippewas lead to 16. South Florida cut the lead to five with 1:23 remaining in the game but it wasn’t enough as CMU picked up its first win of the season, 68-63.

“The guys have been battling their butts off and playing hard as heck," head coach Tony Barbee said. "You always want to feel the reward of it paying off by getting the W and they did that tonight. Proud of the effort, proud that they pulled it out, they competed their butts off for 40 minutes.”

For the Chippewas, it was what Barbee referred to the game as “not pretty”. This is because CMU was dominated in almost every category except where it matters most and that is shooting.

“It wasn't pretty," Barbee said. "We had a chance to pull it away, but we just got such a young team that I told the guys we got so many holes in the dam.”

CMU came out firing right out of the gates as it started the game on a 14-5 run. In that run, five different players scored for the Chippewas with two of the buckets being threes.

Multiple times throughout the first half USF cut the lead down but was never able to get a key stop against the Chippewas. With 1:34 left in the half, USF tied the game for the first time since the opening tip, but it was the closest the Bulls would get throughout the game.

Opening up the second half of play, the teams traded buckets back and forth. That was until freshman Cayden Vasko made a shot with 15:06 left in the half that then propelled CMU to a 14-4 run that gave the Chippewas their largest lead of the game.

CMU’s offense slowed down for the remainder of the half only scoring eight points in the final eight minutes but were able to control their lead and escape a late surge by the Bulls.

CMU shot 49 percent (26-53) from the field compared to USF’s 32 percent (18-57). The Chippewas also shot the ball well from beyond the arch, shooting 62 percent (8-15) where the Bulls only managed to shoot 1-for-17 from the three-point line. After the game Barbee was upset with the number of threes his team took.

“Our goal is to get between 25 and 30 threes up a game,” Barbee said. “Think about how many we passed up that we're open. We're pump faking ourselves out of good three point looks into taking bad twos and tough threes."

For the first time this season the Chippewas won both halves in a game. CMU outscored USF 31-29 in the first half and 37-34 in the second half. Barbee has preached about playing a full 40 minutes since the season started.

“This was the first game this year that we've won the second half in terms of field goal percentage and defense,” Barbee said. “All the other teams have almost been a 10–15-point advantage from the first half to second half.”

Again, the Chippewas were led offensively by Pritchard who led the team in most categories. He had a career high 22 points on almost 70 percent shooting from the field while also being 2-of-2 from three. Along with leading the team in points, he also led the team in rebounds with six and assists with five.

CMU will travel home for a few days before flying back to Florida where the Chippewas will continue the Sunshine Slam Tournament as they take on Siena on Monday at 11:30 a.m.