Monday, December 29, 2008

FINAL : Kentucky 84, CMU 52

The men's basketball team (3-9) fell 84-52 to Kentucky Monday night at Rupp Arena in Lexington. Junior Jacolby Hardiman led CMU with 12 points, while senior forward Marcus Van and junior guard Jordan Bitzer each grabbed eight rebounds.

CMU began the game on a 13-4 run with three consecutive 3-pointers from Bitzer, Robbie Harman and Jeremy Allen. CMU continued to lead, 17-16, with 9:46 left in the first half. But the Wildcats ended the half on a 26-6 run and led 42-23 at the break.

"We just weren’t able to sustain that start," said CMU coach Ernie Zeigler. "We continued to get similar shots, but their length and athleticism started to give us problems. They started to get out on transition on us. We did a really good job of limiting their transition to begin the game, but they have such great depth, they just kind of wear you down."

Both sophomore Antonio Weary and Harman fouled out for Zeigler.

"I think we’ve definitely gotten better since that display against Robert Morris," Zeigler said. "I think the effort today, particularly in the first 10 minutes of the game, is something for us to build on as we take these next 12 days or so to prepare for conference play."

There wasn't much contribution from the bench, with only one player (Weary) scoring (7 points). The starters (Van, Bitzer, Harman, Allen and Hardiman) played 82.5 percent of the minutes for Zeigler, with only Harman playing less than 30 minutes. Bitzer played 38, Van played 37, Hardiman played 32 and Allen played 30.

"It’s definitely a concern," Zeigler said of the team's depth. "But it’s just the hand that we have to play with right now. Antonio Weary is our (sixth) guy, and we just have to try to rotate in those guys and continue to develop the other guys so they can take on some of the load."

Poor shooting again doomed Central as it shot just 18-of-58 (31 percent). Harman was just 3-of-13 and Van was 3-of-12. Van's numbers are particularly alarming because he does most of his damage around the basket.

"They were mostly inside shots," Zeigler said of the shooting woes." We really got the ball into the paint, but struggle in there because of their length and their athleticism really bothered us. We just struggled to finish around the basket."

Meanwhile, the Wildcats were led by Jodie Meeks' 23 points as he shot 5-of-8 from 3-point range. Michael Porter (right) scored 12 points and dished three assists for the Wildcats.

Kentucky shot 30-of-56 (53.6 percent) and made 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) of its 3-point attempts. CMU shot only 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) from long range.

14 Wildcats played in the game, while CMU played 11 in front of 22,944.

"When you have 23,000-strong pulling for you, at some point it definitely helps the momentum," Zeigler said. "Basketball’s a game of momentum. It’s a great atmosphere really what college basketball is all about. As we continue to develop our program, hopefully we can get an opportunity to play in that type of atmosphere again."

Zeigler on what the team must work on as it approaches conference play (Western Michigan comes to Rose Arena on Sunday, Jan. 11):
"We need to continue to work on sustaining a high level of intensity, irregardless of how many minutes each guy has to log. We’re really going to use these next 12 days to really work on getting better as a team. If we can do that it’ll put us in a position to compete in our division and our conference."

Zeigler on senior forward Chris Kellermann, who remains out with a fractured ankle:
"It’s indefinite right now. A little more than two weeks since he injured it. He’ll be reevaluted at the three-week point. Hopefully we’ll have a more definitive status on him by the time we start back at school on (Jan.) 13th."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

FINAL: Detroit 67, CMU 55

The men's basketball (3-8) team lost again Tuesday to former head coach Jay Smith (now an assistant with Detroit), 67-55, this time three days after an embarrassing loss to Robert Morris at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Simply put, things don't look good for coach Ernie Zeigler and Central's chances in the Mid-American Conference this season.

It was another loss that saw the Chippewas commit 30 personal fouls, which is pretty ridiculous. That is enough fouls for six players to foul out. Jordan Bitzer (8 points) and Jeremy Allen (5 points) fouled out of this game, and by the looks of two technical fouls, Zeigler and company weren't very happy about it. Marcus Van picked up a technical, and so did Zeigler. Since its opener against Princeton, when it committed 17 fouls, CMU has not committed less than 20 fouls in any of its games. Seven of its 11 games saw at least one player foul out. Either CMU players can't stay with the opposition and are forced to foul, or the team simply doesn't have enough discipline on defense. You're not going to win very many games with that many fouls, especially when you're only playing four or five guys off the bench. Either let the opponent get the shot off (hey, they might even miss!) or put yourself in a better position. But this many fouls not only makes games boring to watch (there's a stoppage of play it seems every posession), it's not good strategy.

And it's not like these fouls are picked up as CMU fouls near the end of the game. These are totaled throughout the game, being overaggressive on defense.

The team continues to struggle behind the 3-point arc, shooting 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) against the Titans. Robbie Harman, who scored a team-high 16 points, shot 0-for-5. That won't cut it if CMU wants to stay in games.

Central now has six days off before traveling to Kentucky (9-3) on Dec. 29 in Lexington. The Wildcats started slow before winning nine of their last 10 games, including wins over West Virginia and Kansas State.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Final recap: Robert Morris 73, CMU 60

AUBURN HILLS — Last season, Ernie Zeigler called his team out for not being tough on Jan. 22 in Kalamazoo after a loss to Western Michigan.

This season, it came much earlier. The CMU men’s basketball coach said he will get back to instilling his tough philosophy within his team after a 73-60 loss to Robert Morris Saturday at the Palace.

“We are not where we need to be as a program in this process of building,” Zeigler said. “We have to go back and build toughness. We have to start putting guys on a daily basis through different things to build their toughness.”

CMU never led after losing its early 3-0 lead with less than two minutes into the game. RMU imposed its will, drawing foul after foul — 28 total — and shot 42 free throws. It took a 41-33 lead into halftime after shooting 72.2 percent.

Things didn’t get much better to start the second half. The Colonials opened up with a 7-0 run to take a 48-33 lead, and CMU would never get closer than 13 the rest of the way.

“We showed periods of trying to battle and show small snippets of toughness, but it was not enough to put ourselves in a position to be successful,” Zeigler said.

Senior forward Marcus Van, CMU’s lone threat in the post, scored 22 points to become the fifth CMU player to score 20-plus points this season.

But he got into foul trouble, sitting out the majority of the second half after scoring 12 first-half points.

“I tried to play the whole game without making dumb fouls, but sometimes it happens, you just have to keep your head up and continue to play,” he said.

Also in foul trouble throughout the game was sophomore guard Jeremy Allen, who scored just six points in only 20 minutes.
Allen fouled out with 7:16 remaining.

Junior guard Robbie Harman played a team-high 39 minutes and finished with 12 points.

“I think right now, with what we’ve got, we have to find within us when things get tough or aren’t going our way, we have to battle through,” Harman said. “And right now, we don’t have that.”

CMU shot just 39.7 percent, while RMU shot 60 percent. Zeigler said the only thing he could take away from the game is that the program is not doing well.

“When you have the opportunity to be in these types of venues in front of alumni and friends and family, you would hope that you would be inspired to come out with a better effort,” he said.

Palace live blog

FINAL: Robert Morris 73, CMU 60
See for full recap shortly.

2:59 remaining, second half
RMU 72, CMU 54
RMU has stymied all of CMU's comeback attempts with its continuous attack of the basket. The Colonials have 39 free throw attempts and are shooting 65.6 percent from the field. The Chippewas came within 13, 63-50, on a few steals with a full-court press, but eventually, the Colonials regained control.

11:48 remaining, second half
RMU 58, CMU 39
CMU still cannot get anything going on the offensive end, scoring only six points thus far. The fouls keep coming, nearly every offensive possession for the Colonials, as CMU has eight team fouls already. RMU? 1.

15:55 remaining, second half
RMU 50, CMU 35
CMU responded with a basket from Robbie Harman after the timeout, but RMU went back to offense. Senior forward Marcus Van committed his fourth foul with a hard foul underneath, for which the referees warned both Van and Zeigler.

17:01 remaining, second half
RMU 48, CMU 33
CMU continues to struggle to open the half, allowing uncontested layups up the middle to RMU sophomore guard Gary Wallace. Coach Ernie Zeigler had seen enough. He called timeout, took off his sportcoat and went off on his players. I've never seen him so heated.

18:30 remaining, second half
RMU 46, CMU 33
Less than two minutes in, Jeremy Allen already has four fouls and CMU has yet to score.

HALFTIME: Robert Morris 41, CMU 33
RMU shot a blistering 72.2 percent from the field in the first half, shooting 13-of-18 and 12-of-17 from the free throw line. CMU, meanwhile, made the same amount of field goals but shot 10 more times (13-for-28) and shot just 5-of-11 from the line. RMU is also outrebounding CMU 16-10.

Three players from Robert Morris score 8 points, including leading scorer Jeremy Chappell. Marcus Van leads CMU with 12 points, while Robbie Harman has 8 and Jeremy Allen has 6.

1:05 p.m.

3-0 CMU The game is underway, with Marcus Van hitting an inside layup and making the ensuing foul shot. The Palace is largely empty, with a smattering of fans in the upperdeck. The ends are closed with a black curtain in the upper deck.

9-11 Jeremy Allen over a RMY defender from outside

15:00 9-13 Jeremy Chappell runner in the lane over Van

11-13 Van inside jumper

11-15 RMU leads Foul on Van inside on blocking foul, basket's good.

14:36 remaining, first half
The teams look evenly matched thus far. Jordan Bitzer is on the bench with two fouls already, and CMU has six team fouls in about the same number of minutes into the game.CMU is looking to get the ball inside early, with a majority of the team's shots coming from there. RMU has opened up with two 3-pointers and is drawing fouls on a consistent basis. The refs are calling it tight.

13:12 remaining, first half
11-18 RMU guard Jimmy Langhurst has gone off, hitting a 3-pointer and a long two to lead RMU with five points.


14-19 Robbie Harman hits a 3-pointer

CMU 17, RMU 21
Marcus Van is establishing himself early as a threat down low for CMU, as he has 10 points. It's something CMU needs considering Chris Kellermann and Marko Spica, two of the team's big men, are out indefinitely.

6:49 remaining, first half

RMU 27, CMU 24
Central is staying in the game with some good execution in its offensive sets, along with some clutch shooting. Robbie Harman has 6 points, two 3-pointers that were much-needed boosts. Freshman forward Lawrence Bridges, from Detroit, is playing well inside. But fouls and free throw shooting continue to be issues. CMU is already over 10 fouls and is shooting poorly from the free throw line.

3:56 remaining, first half
RMU 31, CMU 26

3:18 remaining, first half
RMU 33, CMU 28
Robbie Harman is keeping CMU in the game. He drives the lane for a hard-fought layup, but CMU's defense continues to foul RMU and the Colonials are making them pay.

1:43 remaining, first half
RMU 35, CMU 31
CMU's full-court defense paid off in the form of Jeremy Allen's steal and lay-in to bring CMU within four. The team then stole the ball on RMU's next possession and Antonio Weary called timeout from the floor to secure possession.

1:55 p.m. Halftime
RMU 41, CMU 33
The Colonials closed off the first half with a 6-2 run. With about a minute left, Hardiman stole the ball and had a shot at a dunk. But he missed as a RMU defender contested and Harman missed the follow up.

Notes: Former CMU forward Nate Minnoy ius in the crowd, watching his old team in action.

Saturday at the Palace

The men (3-6) will face Robert Morris (5-5) for the second straight season, but this time, it comes at the Palace of Auburn Hills at 1 p.m. Saturday. The game will be followed by Michigan against Oakland at 4 p.m.

Some news:

-Senior forward Chris Kellermann is out indefinitely with a foot injury suffered in practice. He's had some trouble with this in the past, which caused him to miss 12 games during his sophomore year (2006-07). This puts more pressure on senior forward Marcus Van, who is averaging 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in his four games. In Wednesday's 72-69 loss to Illinois State at Rose Arena, the starting five (Van, sophomore guard Jeremy Allen, junior forward Jacolby Hardiman, sophomore guard Antonio Weary and junior guard Robbie Harman) played 81.5% of the minutes, with only Jordan Bitzer (who scored 10 points in his return) playing more than six minutes off the bench. The team is most definitely feeling Kellermann's absence, especially with junior forward Marko Spica still out with a knee injury.

-Speaking of Bitzer, although he only shot 2-for-10 from the field in his return Wednesday (maybe feeling some nerves), he will be able to either start for Weary or come off the bench and be instant offense. His shooting ability is second-to-none on the team and obviously, CMU needs scorers with Kellermann out.

Scouting Robert Morris:
CMU beat RMU 83-72 last season in Moon Township, Pa., behind Bitzer's career-high 18 points. The Colonials are led by Jeremy Chappell, a 6-foot, 3-inch shooting guard from Cincinnati who averages 16.6 points per game. Look for #21 to come out fast after missing last year's game because of academic suspension. The Colonials' top two scorers from the Dec. 5, 2007 game (Tony Lee - 18 points, and A.J. Jackson - 15 points) have graduated. Spica added 17 for CMU last season. RMU is coming off an 83-70 win against Lafayette.

A list of RMU's games thus far:
Shippensburg 69-34 W
at St. Bonaventure 62-72 L
Delaware 86-75 W
at Rutgers 55-69 L
vs. Marist 55-72 L
Youngstown State 74-72 W
at Iona 70-62 W
St. Francis (N.Y.) 79-87 L
Long Island 81-70 W
at Miami (Fl.) 62-70 L
at Lafayette (Pa.) 83-70 W

Coach Mike Rice, in his second season at RMU's helm, was impressive in his debut last season as he guided the Colonials to a 16-2 Northeast Conference record and a regular-season championship. However, the Colonials lost in the conference tournament to Mount St. Mary's and lost to Syracuse in the first round of the NIT. RMU finished with a 26-8 overall record, and at one point won 14 consecutive games. Rice has previous ties as an assistant at Fordham (1991-94), Marquette (1994-97), Niagara (1997-98), Chicago State (1998-2001), Saint Joseph's (2004-06) and Pittsburgh (2006-07).

Watch out for RMU's defense. The Colonials had 11 steals in their loss to Miami (Fla.) on Dec. 14, with Chappell finishing with six. Also, down low, the teams match up pretty well — like CMU, RMU is small. The team has no player taller than 6-8, while CMU has just one active — Brandon Ford, who is averaging just 0.4 points per game in 11.2 minutes.

I will be there blogging from the Palace, and will stay for the Oakland-Michigan game as well. Should be a good day of basketball. Stay tuned for more as I will be posting more in coming days.