It was the first time Central Michigan swept a season series against Ohio since 1989. It was the first time the Chippewas had won in Athens since 2002. It was the first time the program had clinched a winning record since 2003.
"There are a lot of firsts for us this year," said CMU head coach Keno Davis after the game.
Davis' squad added to that growing list of firsts tonight when they defeated the Ohio Bobcats 68-57. It was far from the Chippewas' best performance - the team shot 39% from the floor - but the Chips out-hustled their opponents and made enough plays to secure the victory.
"We were the slower team to the loose ball tonight and that absolutely tears me apart," said a frustrated Saul Phillips after the game, his voice raspy from tearing into his team minutes earlier. "That's not what we're about."
Ohio won the tip, and it was all downhill from there. After a missed Maurice Ndour jumper, Central Michigan showed off their long range shooting skills early, as John Simons sank a three on the Chips' first shot attempt.
The Chippewas dominated the game early, moving the ball quickly and shaking off Bobcat defenders with pump fakes. Ohio always seemed a step behind and a second late on their block attempts. When Ohio was on offense, they had trouble just getting the ball down the court as the Chippewas defense forced turnover after turnover. It didn't help that when the Bobcats could barely get a shot off, the ball could not find the basket.
It took ten possessions and almost six minutes for Ohio to get their first points of the game, a Javarez Willis jumper from the wing. But by that point, CMU had already jumped to a 15-0 lead.
"We've gotten off to some slow starts this year," said Phillips. "This one was disturbing because of the hustle plays made during that stretch."
Ohio was embarrassed on the boards early, and so CMU was able to maintain its lead despite shooting just 38 percent from the field in the first half, even as they went on an 0-for-7 stretch.
But the Bobcats shot an even worse 28 percent from the field. Strong backcourt pressure that limited the Bobcat guards' ability to work the ball inside - let alone get a shot off. At halftime, Willis led the team with five points. For the first part of the game, only the faint cheers from the Chippewas bench broke the silence that hung over the Convocation Center.
At halftime, the Bobcats had more turnovers (ten) than made shots (seven).
The Bobcats shot much better in the second half, but with CMU leading 39-20 at the start of the half, the Bobcats needed more than that to get themselves back into the game. Instead of drawing closer to Central Michigan, Ohio spent the entire half fighting just to keep the Chippewas lead from growing over 20.
Even with such a lead, the Chippewas did not back off defensively, continuing to put on a full-court press against the Bobcats until the game's end. Central Michigan spent the game's dying minutes dribbling the ball around the Bobcats' end, even as Ohio tried to double-team and trap the Chips.
After being down by 25 around the 11 minute mark in the second half, Ohio did manage to cut CMU's lead to 11 by the game's end, but its unlikely that the Bobcats would have caught the Chippewas even if they were spotted another 20 minutes.
Simmons and Simons (confusing on paper, yes, but the two look nothing alike) were the only Chips to score more than 10 points with 14 and 18, respectively. Chris Fowler was held to 6 points but still had 7 assists.
Stevie Taylor was the only Bobcat to reach a double-digit point total - he finished with 15. Javarez Willis, who was named MAC East Player of the Week on Monday, finished with just nine points. He was 3-for-14 from the field, and missed all six of his 3-point attempts. Ndour was also held to just nine points. Rebounding, a strength for Ohio in their past two victories, was a weakness for the team tonight. The Chippewas out-rebounded the 'Cats 40-29. CMU also had more than twice as many offensive rebounds (15 to 7).
The older guys need to step up," said Treg Setty, who finished with seven points. "Stevie, Maurice, Bean, myself. We all got to step up and lead. We can't expect the younger guys to know what to do in situations like this. This is all on us."
|Points||S. Taylor (15)||J. Simons (18)|
|Rebounds||A. Campbell (8)||J. Simons (13)|
|Assists||J. Willis (5)||C. Fowler (7)|
|Blocks||M. Ndour (3)||B. Hibbitts (1)|
|Steals||3 tied (1)||J. Simons (3)|