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."