Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Control the tempo, control the game.
Central Michigan ran into a patient offense coupled with an intense defense in Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday as the RedHawks handed the Chippewas a 70-61 Mid-American Conference men’s basketball loss before 2,125 at McGuirk Arena.
The Chippewas slipped to 13-7, 2-5 MAC. Miami is 11-9, 4-3.
The 60 points was CMU’s second-lowest point total of the season as the Chippewas struggled to find their rhythm, making just 37.7 percent of their field goal attempts including 32.1 percent from 3-point range.
“They pressure the ball 94 feet,” CMU guard Shawn Roundtree Jr. said. “When it comes down to it, we need to find a way to execute against that pressure, find a way to lock in, calm down, and execute.”
Nike Sibande scored 22 points to lead the RedHawks, who led for nearly the entire game though the Chippewas managed to remain a step or two behind.
Kevin McKay came off the bench to score 17 points – all in the second half – to lead the Chippewas. The sophomore also grabbed eight rebounds while playing 29 minutes, matching his season high in that category.
Roundtree finished with 15 points and Cecil Williams added 14.
“There’s a lot of things that go into the game, but we go 9 for 28 from three, and they go 11 for 23,” CMU coach Keno Davis said. “I mean there’s the game right there.
“For us, I think we’re better in an up-tempo game where we’re getting more and more shots, but we’ve got to be able to win the half-court game as well. I credit (Miami) for being able to kind of control the tempo and not get rushed (against) what we were doing defensively too.”
Miami opened its largest lead, 12 points, with just over 10 minutes to play at 53-41. CMU slowly climbed back and drew within three, 62-59, with under two minutes remaining.
A 3-pointer by Isaiah Coleman-Lands with 1:39 to play was the crushing blow, putting the RedHawks back up by six, 65-59. CMU trimmed its deficit back to four, 65-61, on a pair of Roundtree free throws with 1:24 left, but it was the last time the Chippewas would score as they missed their final three field goal attempts.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” McKay said. “We were there for most of the game. We hit a few shots here and there, we get a few stops we win that game.”
The Chippewas play host to Kent State in a MAC game on Saturday (4:30 p.m.). The Golden Flashes defeated CMU in their first meeting, 85-69, at Kent on Jan. 6. That loss was the first of four straight for CMU.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re improved as a team,” Davis said. “We would like to see that in wins, but I know we’re a better ball club than we were when we went to Kent. That’s something last year that you didn’t hear me say as we went through the conference. No, it was trying to find a way to win last year.
“This year it really is about getting better. We’re in better position right now and that being said, we’re not good enough right now. We have to be able to continue to improve in all areas and become more consistent in what we do. I know our guys are looking forward to not having too many days between games and to come back and show the energy and effort that we’ve really had throughout the season.”