Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Previewing Wednesday's matchup with Ohio

From Wednesday's CM Life:

By Daniel Monson
Sports Copy Chief

Three Cody High School alumni will meet at 8 p.m. today when the men's basketball team hosts Ohio in Rose Arena.

But only one leads the Mid-American Conference in assists.

Ohio senior guard Michael Allen attended the same Detroit high school as CMU head coach Ernie Zeigler and director of basketball operations Terrance Chatman.

Chatman coached Allen, whose 4.22 assists per game leads the MAC, when Allen played at Cody High. He said he is similar to CMU junior point guard Robbie Harman because of the effort he gives on the court.

"They both play so hard," he said. "For (Allen), he's been that way since he was in the ninth grade. He's so much of a leader, he controls the whole game."

Allen can also score. His 7.1 points per game ranks fifth on the team and has made 17-of-40 (42.5 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.

"He's going to have a lot of family coming," Zeigler said. "For us, again it's going to be about 'pick your poison,' because they're very balanced on offense."

In CMU's 62-47 loss to the Bobcats last season in Athens, the 6-foot Allen scored only three points, but recorded five assists.

"He doesn't hunt shots, but he takes open shots," Chatman said. "His strength is controlling the game, getting to the basket, making his teammates better. It's not like he can't shoot it, but he looks to get it to other guys first."

And the most dangerous of Allen's teammates is senior forward Jerome Tillman, whose 19.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game leads the MAC.

"What makes him difficult to defend is his versatility," OU coach John Groce. "He can play both inside and out."

The 6'6" Tillman has made 17 3-pointers and his 235-pound frame can be tough inside as well, Zeigler said.

"They had the best post player in the league last year in Leon Williams," he said. "Now, Jerome Tillman, kind of his Robin last year, has kind of gone into that Batman role."

The Bobcats (10-8 overall, 3-2 MAC) lost 52-51 to Bowling Green at home on Saturday, shooting just 26.5 percent. Groce said the loss should inspire his team.

"If it doesn't, then I'm not coaching a very competitive basketball team," he said. "And I do think that our guys are competitive … I hope it gets our attention."

The Chippewas (5-12, 2-3 MAC) are coming off their first MAC road win, beating Northern Illinois 58-45 Saturday. Senior forward Marcus Van was named MAC West Player of the Week after a 14-point, 20-rebound performance.

Groce said he likes his team to play uptempo, while CMU will try to control the flow of the game by taking its time on the offensive end. Central has lost six consecutive to Ohio and the last two at Rose Arena.

"We're going to have a very difficult task in trying to slow them down," Zeigler said. "We're going to be truly tested about how we want to play now - can we truly control the tempo?"

Man in the Middle

From Wednesday's CM Life:

By Daniel Monson
Sports Copy Chief

Every day before he comes to practice, Brandon Ford uses a pump to make sure his left foot has enough blood.

The circulation is so poor that his foot is constantly swollen up. His size-16 shoes are not big enough sometimes without a compression sock. But the senior center on the men's basketball team is not making any excuses.

"I have some days where it just hurts to walk around," he said. "But it's something I've lived with since high school, so I've gotten used to it."

It was easy to attend a men's basketball game during the last three seasons and overlook the six-foot, 11-inch Ford.

After sitting out his freshman season in 2005-2006, the Petrolia, Ontario native spent most of his time sitting on the bench next to coach Ernie Zeigler. He did not even score last season, playing in only 11 games.

"You always have your days when you're like, 'why I am I doing this? Is all the work worth it?'" Ford said. "But at the end of the day, you're out here, having fun and playing basketball. You're doing what you love to do."

But this season, his last before he graduates, Ford was called upon to step in when two forwards - junior Marko Spica and senior Chris Kellermann - suffered season-ending injuries.

"Brandon hasn't had a lot of opportunities to perform in the heat of battle," said Zeigler, who considers the center to be the team's most surprising player this season.

After two seasons in which he played just 31 games and 103 total minutes (3.3 per game) Ford already has totaled 99 minutes in 13 games (7.6 per game) this season. When senior forward Marcus Van gets in foul trouble, Ford is called upon to utilize his size in the post.

"In the game of basketball, the one thing you can't coach, the one thing you can't teach is size," Zeigler said. "Irregardless of how athletic a person may be with size, when he puts his hands up, he's 7-5, 7-6."

Ford found himself in a position to affect the outcome of the game for one of the first times in his career Jan. 17 against Ball State. His four points on a layup and dunk after Van fouled out were crucial to helping CMU hold on for its first MAC win.

"You always want to be in those positions," Ford said. "You want to be that person - it doesn't matter who starts, it's who finishes. You want coaches to trust you and trust you that you can pull off the win."

In addition to Ford's chronic circulation problems, he also underwent knee surgery two seasons ago.

"He can only go so long in increments of time in terms of being on the floor," Zeigler said. "He's battled through a lot of things where some people would have said, 'I can't physically do it.' Now it's given him the opportunity to reap the benefits of all the hard work and suffering that he's gone through up to this point."

Growing up in Petrolia, which is about 20 miles across the St. Clair River from Port Huron, Ford played hockey until he grew to the point where he knew he was more suitable for basketball.

"I sprouted up in kindergarten," Ford said, smiling. "That's when I started growing two inches a year, four inches a year. I was always the tallest person."

Zeigler said Ford is slowly realizing he can be a force when he's on the court. But off it, he's still a kid from a small town in Canada.

"At times when he's off the court, he's very happy-go-lucky," Zeigler said. "He's that gentle giant."

And Ford is enjoying every minute of his time spent on the court this season.

"You put all the practice in - you may hate it some days," he said. "But when it comes to the games, it's that feeling of being on the court in the last minute and a half and everyone's watching you - it's what you live for."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Van wins MAC West Player of the Week, CMU preparing for Ohio

Marcus Van has been named Mid-American Conference Player of the Week after his dominant 20-rebound performance against Northern Illinois on Saturday. His average for the week was 14 points, 14 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.

I had the opportunity to sit down with junior forward Jacolby Hardiman today after CMU's practice and talked with him about his journey to CMU from his hometown Milwaukee to Arkansas-Fort Smith Community College to CMU. He's a great guy, real softspoken, and really, no one knows what this guy has been through. Look for the story in the next couple of weeks — I'm not going to spoil it now, but it will be one hell of a story if I do my job right.

I'll talk to coach Ernie Zeigler tomorrow morning about the upcoming matchup against Ohio at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Rose Arena. The Bobcats are coming off a tough one-point loss to Bowling Green on Saturday and sit at 3-2 in the MAC, while CMU is 2-3 and looking to even out its record to .500. I talked with OU coach John Groce today about the matchup. Here's some of what he said:

On whether the 52-51 home loss against Bowling Green will motivate his team:
"If it doesn't, then I'm not coaching a very competitive basketball team. And I do think that our guys are competitive. When you're dealing with 18-to-22 year olds, sometimes it's more difficult for a coach to get their guys inspired after winning and being able to deal with success at that it age than it is after getting knocked down and you have to get back up. I hope it gets our attention and they take some pride and their competitiveness gets them inspired to get back on the court after that difficult one on Saturday."

On 6-6 senior forward and the MAC's No. 1 leading scorer Jerome Tillman, who averages 19.7 points per game:
"Just the kind of person that he is stands out. He's a great leader. He's a team guy, he plays to win. What makes him difficult to defend is his versatility — he can play both inside and out."

On his team's style of play:
"We like to play up tempo. That's where I came from, it's what we like to do. We played against zone for 37 straight minutes of the game. In a perfect world, we'd like to have as many possessions as possible and go up and down."

On defending CMU:
"They've got great balance. That strikes you. They've got five guys in double figures — that's a sign of a team that's difficult to defend. I think another thing is their ability to rebound the basketball. Those two things as we're heading into the game on Wednesday are our primary concerns."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sat., Jan. 17 FINAL: CMU 71, Ball State 65

The CMU men’s basketball team had a lot to play for on Saturday. With coach Ernie Zeigler encouraging the Chippewas to play like they had nothing to lose, they did — and took a 71-65 win against Ball State at Rose Arena.

“We had lost six in a row, and it doesn’t get much worse than that,” said junior guard Jordan Bitzer. “We came out and tried to play desperate. We came out early and tried to establish that this was our home court.”

CMU lost its first two Mid-American Conference games and had not won in more than one month, but Bitzer’s team-high 21 points after taking a knee to chest sparked the team.

“He’s just an absolute warrior and we definitely need him to be out there and be that glue for us that he is,” said CMU coach Ernie Zeigler.

Bitzer took a charge on a play at the end of the first half, and immediately walked off the court the locker room. Bitzer said he had trouble breathing after his chest tightened up during halftime.

“It didn’t really affect my shot at all — I was still aggressive,” he said. “I just had to fight through. But I’m sure I’ll be sore tomorrow morning.”

Junior Brandon Ford, who spends the majority of the end of games on the bench, got his chance when senior forward Marcus Van fouled out with one minutes, 20 seconds remaining.

Ford’s two field goals in that span — a layup and a dunk — helped Central pull away from the pesky Cardinals, which came within two, 65-63, with 1:17 left. Ford’s layup on a fast break gave the Chippewas a four-point lead soon after, and he added a closing statement with a dunk with 10 seconds left.

“He had the baskets, but he also had two huge blockouts,” Zeigler said. “They got a couple offensive rebounds and then he came in and got us two huge blockouts.”

CMU’s tenacity resulted in some frustration from the Cardinals early on in the second half. After CMU junior guard Robbie Harman lost the ball after coming off a screen, he and BSU freshman Randy Davis dove after it a scrum resulted. In the midst of the fracas, Davis struck Harman twice with his forearm and was ejected.

“In my opinion, it was just two kids going after it and competing,” Zeigler said. “I didn’t get a chance to see the replay, in terms of what was thrown. It was just two guys scrapping — you had two teams playing hard.”

BSU coach Billy Taylor said he had no comment about the ejection because he had not seen the replay yet, and did not know if it would result in a suspension for Davis.

“They played with great hunger and passion and I thought our guys did too,” Taylor said. “In MAC play, every game is one that is desperate for both teams. We wanted it badly — unfortunately, we weren’t able to get it done.”

Harman finished with 15 points and six assists, while Bitzer added six steals. BSU received 34 points from its bench, as senior guard Laron Frazier led the team with 18 points.

Frazier and BSU’s pressure near the end forced CMU into multiple turnovers, which Zeigler said was a result of a lack of experience.

“It’s part of learning how to finish a game,” he said. “We talked about it, and we’re a team that had three wins coming into this, hadn’t won a game in conference and had lost six in a row … It was good for us to be able to go through it.”

QUOTING CMU COACH ERNIE ZEIGLER: “We made shots. We did a really good job of finishing opportunities. We did a good job of trying to limit them on the offensive glass. They only had one offensive rebound in the first half. We made our free throws. It’s definitely been a thorn in our side especially coming off the Eastern game and shooting 60 percent down there. Down the stretch we did a good job of knocking down our free throws.

“It was actually to our detrimet when Davis was thrown out of the game. When Frazier’s on the floor, that’s their best team. They do a good job of putting pressure on you.

“We tried to go elsewhere and use (Marcus Van) as a decoy. He did a good job passing out of the double team.”

QUOTING BSU COACH BILLY TAYLOR: “I thought our guys struggled defensively. We couldn’t get the stops that we’re used to getting.

“We made a great run. Pressed, force a few turnovers, but when you dig yourself a eight-to-nine point hole, it’s hard to come back from that, especially on the road.

“They said it was a flagrant foul, a flagrant forearm.”

“We weren’t as patient as I would’ve liked to get the ball inside. He got some touches, but we wanted to try to get our secondary looks instead of just trying to jam it in all the time.

My take on Saturday's CMU-Ball State game

The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit — kind of a surprise to me when I saw that watching the Pistons lose to Oklahoma City (!) tonight. Here's my column from Friday's Central Michigan Life. I will also update from Rose Arena Saturday, so stay posted.

Simply put, Saturday's game is the most important of the season so far for the men's basketball team. And it comes against an inspired team that has come together.

Ball State, off to its best start in nine years, comes to Rose Arena at 4:30 p.m. without its leading scorer Anthony Newell, who shattered his right leg on Saturday against Eastern Michigan. The Cardinals, just like their football team lost, must face the Mid-American Conference without their best player and face of the program.

And both suffered horrific injuries. Both Newell's leg and receiver Dante Love's neck injuries sent them to the nearest local hospital for emergency surgery.

The six-foot, five-inch senior forward was not only the team's best player, he was also one of the MAC's best. Newell's versatility made him one of the league's most exciting players to watch.

He led the team in points 16.9 points per game and eight rebounds last season and was averaging 15.2 points and 9.4 rebounds this season.

It's unfortunate, but also part of the game. CMU knows all about having to fill the voids left by injured teammates. Two starters - Marko Spica (knee) and Chris Kellermann (ankle) are likely done for the season, leaving the team dangerously thin in the post.

But two losses into its Mid-American Conference schedule, CMU needs to make some changes. Easier said than done, but here are three ways Central can win its first game since Dec. 15:

Play defense.

In CMU's three wins this season, it did not allow opponents to score more than 68 points. CMU is in no state to outscore its opponents, but it can hold down the defensive end of the floor.

"Even if we struggle to score 60-65 points, we still should be able to hold teams to less than 40 percent shooting and less than 60-65 points," said junior guard Jordan Bitzer. "It doesn't really matter what we do offensively, just what we do on defense."

Stay out of foul trouble.

Central cannot afford to sit its most effective players on the bench during the game's crucial situations. This is especially important for senior forward Marcus Van, who has committed at least four fouls in five of his 10 games this season. The Chippewas just don't have the depth to compete when two or more starters are unavailable.

Make free throws.

CMU ranks second-worst in the conference at 60.2 percent. Never was it more glaring, however, than Tuesday's 84-77 double overtime loss to Eastern Michigan. CMU's 20-of-33 effort made the difference between a win and a loss. CMU also missed eight in a nine-point loss to Western Michigan on Saturday.

"It's just a matter of confidence," Van said. "If we go up and miss the first couple, we kind of put our heads down and the we'll just keep missing them and missing them."

A win would alleviate some of the sting from the first two losses to in-state rivals EMU and WMU, but then Central heads on the road for two more against Toledo and Northern Illinois.

But success must start somewhere, and Saturday is as much of an opportune time as ever.

MAC West leader Ball State visits Rose Arena Saturday

CMU expects an inspired Ball State men's basketball team when its hosts the Cardinals at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Rose Arena.

The Cardinals have turned their season into a tribute to fallen senior forward Anthony Newell, who suffered a season-ending injury during their 46-42 Saturday win at Eastern Michigan.

"From what I've been able to hear, they're rallying around it," said CMU coach Ernie Zeigler. "It was a very horrific injury."

Newell was averaging a team-high 15.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game before a compound fracture to his right leg required him to undergo surgery at an Ypsilanti hospital.

Three days later, his teammates returned home Tuesday against Northern Illinois and wore Newell's No. 32 on their jerseys. His inspiration carried BSU to a 60-54 win. Its 7-7 overall record is the team's best start since the 1999-2000 season and has already surpassed last season's six wins.

Meanwhile, CMU (3-11 overall, 0-2 MAC) has lost six consecutive and is off to its first 0-2 MAC start since 2006, when it finished 4-24. It took EMU to double overtime Tuesday before losing 84-77 in Ypsilanti.

"We need a win for a lot of different reasons," Zeigler said. "But first and foremost, with the type of effort and intensity we displayed Tuesday, if we can build on that intensity, as a coach, I just want my guys to be rewarded with a victory."

Next man in

When senior forward and leading scorer Chris Kellermann fractured his ankle in December in practice, Central rallied and won its next game, 74-66, against Alcorn State on Dec. 15. Sophomore guard Jeremy Allen took the lead for CMU and scored 22 points.

Zeigler said BSU freshman Jarrod Jones is that player for the Cardinals. Jones, a six-foot, nine-inch forward, averages 10.9 points and 6.6 rebounds.

"He's a load down there and he's going to be a difficult matchup for us," he said. "We're going to have to really play some swarming defense and make them try to beat us from the perimeter."

But CMU junior guard Robbie Harman said it is difficult to prepare for who will step in for Newell and take the lead role.

"It's a little tougher that we can't focus just one guy. Right now we have to worry about who the guy is who is going to step up for them," he said. "We don't really know who that's going to be. It puts pressure on us across the board to hold down our own man on defense."

CMU's lone post threat is senior forward Marcus Van, who fouled out of Tuesday's game after scoring 12 of his 13 points in the first half.

"We have to have an inside presence - we can't just depend on our threes to fall every time," Van said. "Right now, I'm probably the only person that can have a solid inside game. I've just got to stop hunting blocks. I've just got to stay on my feet and stop trying to block everything."

With its next two MAC games on the road, Zeigler said winning Saturday would help turn things around.

"There's no better place to start than at home," he said. "We've been struggling at home and on the road. And if we're going to start showing signs of life and digging ourselves out of the hole that we're in, there's no better place to start than Rose Arena."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

CMU comes back to force double overtime, but Eastern Michigan prevails 84-77

Despite some late-game heroics to send the game into double overtime, the men's basketball team lost its sixth consecutive game Tuesday to Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti.

Down three players because of foul trouble, CMU could not stop EMU senior guard Zane Gay, who made two 3-pointers, including one with 20 seconds left to seal the 84-77 win for the Eagles.

"The word that comes to my mind more than any is 'disappointed,'" said coach Ernie Zeigler. "But like I told our guys, unfortunately, basketball isn't horseshoes - close doesn't count."

Junior guard Jordan Bitzer pump faked defender Will Cooper with 12 seconds left in overtime and made a 3-pointer that tied the score at 71. Both teams made steals in the final seconds, but the game headed to another five-minute period.

"He didn't go for (the fake), so I just pulled the trigger and it felt good coming out and it went in," Bitzer said.

CMU was down 57-53 with 29 seconds left in regulation before junior guard Robbie Harman made two 3-pointers. He cut the EMU lead to one - 57-56 - with 11 seconds left. After two made free throws by EMU's Wendale Farrow to make the score 59-56, EMU regained possession and Brandon Bowdry missed two free throws with six seconds left. Bitzer grabbed the rebound and Harman made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

"We battled tonight - we came back at the end of regulation," Bitzer said. "There's a fire there and it's still burning. We're not going to give up on the season - it's only two games in the (Mid-American Conference). We could easily go on a five-game win streak and be right back in it."

In double overtime, EMU's 3-of-4 3-point shooting proved costly as Gay hit two and freshman L.J. Frazier hit another. CMU was outscored 13-6 in the period, with all of its points coming from the free-throw line.

Central led 32-28 at halftime, but Eastern came out of the locker room fast, scoring seven consecutive points and going on a 14-7 run to open up the second half.

Free throws became costly again for CMU as it shot 20-of-33 (60.6 percent). The Chippewas ranked second-to-last in the MAC coming into Tuesday with a 60.2 percent average.

"We're definitely working to correct it every day," Zeigler said. "It's a mental thing, a confidence thing, particularly for a few guys. Once you get into game and pressure situations, you have to put yourself mentally in position to be able to knock down those free throws."

Central (3-11 overall, 0-2 MAC) was down three players for the majority of the overtime periods as junior Jacolby Hardiman (nine seconds left in regulation), senior Marcus Van (one minute into overtime) and Lawrence Bridges (22 seconds into double overtime) all fouled out. Van finished with 13 points, 12 of which came in the first half. Bitzer led CMU with 21 points and nine rebounds.

"It definitely hurt when Marcus and Jacolby fouled out," Bitzer said. "Van was having a good game and we were getting him the ball down low."

Two of the Eagles' leading scorers, Bowdry, the MAC's sixth-leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, and junior forward Justin Dobbins, also fouled out - but not before Bowdry scored 22 points to lead EMU (3-13, 1-1 MAC).

Central returns home for a 4:30 p.m. Saturday game against Ball State at Rose Arena.

"This loss definitely hurts," Bitzer said. "But we have to use this to fuel us going into Saturday - Saturday is a must-win for us against Ball State."

Final: Western Michigan 72, CMU 63

Ernie Zeigler issued a challenge shortly after CMU's 72-63 loss to Western Michigan Sunday at Rose Arena.

Just six players received more than four minutes on the floor for Zeigler, and the result left a tired five on the floor as the clock wound down in the team's Mid-American Conference opener.

"It's going to be huge," Zeigler said of his team's need for more bench contribution. "But until those guys mature on a daily basis, it's going to be hard for them to get minutes. We have the cards that we have, and we're just going to continue to battle and try to bring them along as we move forward."

Junior point guard Robbie Harman, who played 35 minutes and scored nine points, said he conditions himself in practice so he is able to play extended minutes, but would like some help as well.

"I've got to find a way to keep myself going," Harman said. "I thought I got tired at the end, my shots weren't falling as much.

"Coach Zeigler hit it on the spot. Some guys may not be ready, but they've got their chance so they've got to step up for us. They might be thrown into the wash a little early, but someone's got to emerge in the next couple games here."

CMU (3-10 overall, 0-1 MAC) gets its next MAC test at 7 p.m. Tuesday when it plays Eastern Michigan (2-13, 0-1 MAC) in Ypsilanti.

The Eagles have lost seven consecutive games, including a 46-42 loss against Ball State Saturday to open MAC play at home.

CMU has now lost five consecutive since a win against Alcorn State on Dec. 15.

Slow start

Central came within three after trailing 33-26 at halftime, but were unable to come any closer the rest of the way.

WMU senior guard David Kool scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the second half to keep the Chippewas at a distance.

A six-minute, 34-second scoring drought plagued CMU in the first half as Western jumped to a 15-4 lead.

WMU senior guard Andre Ricks had not scored his last three games and did not even play in Western Michigan's last contest. But Ricks' 11 points in the first half - and 17 total - set the tone for Western's eventual 47.8 percentage from the field.

"It kind of set the tone for the first half and allowed the rest of our team to relax and play with a lead," said WMU coach Steve Hawkins.

Ricks, who played with torn ligaments in his left wrist, was a game-time decision. He only scored 15 total points coming into the game and eclipsed the mark with his 17 points.

"We knew he's very capable," Zeigler said. "He got some really wide open uncontested looks there, particularly in the first half, that contributed to them shooting such a high percentage."

Junior guard Jordan Bitzer played a game-high 38 minutes and scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and totaled three assists.

"He's starting to get more comfortable," Zeigler said. "It's unfortunate that it was all for naught in terms of us coming out with a victory."

Central's only post threat was senior center Marcus Van, who led the team with 18 points. The majority of CMU's second-half shots came behind the 3-point arc, where it shot 6-of-17 after a 1-for-7 effort in the first half.

"For us, outside of Marcus, we don't have anyone else that can score (down low)," Zeigler said. "The few opportunities we had around the basket, we were unable to finish them, and it definitely contributed to our inability to go on a serious run."

CMU plays next at home at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against Ball State at Rose Arena.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Halftime at Rose Arena: WMU 33, CMU 26

Western takes a seven-point lead into halftime after CMU went scoreless for six minutes, 34 seconds after taking a 4-3 lead. WMU led by as much as 15-4 before Marcus Van hit a layup with 11:04 remaining in the half.

A surprise: After WMU starting shooting guard Shantes Gary went out with two early fouls, senior Andre Ricks came in and filled the void nicely. He has 11 points at half, including three 3-pointers, which is surprising because of his just 2-of-15 shooting from the arc coming in and only a 2.3 points-per-game average.

Inside game: Stifled early, CMU finally found a way to get the ball inside to senior center Marcus Van, who leads the team with 8 points.

Looking at fouls: Four WMU players (senior forward Derek Drews, senior guard Michael Redell, Gary and freshman forward LeMarcus Lowe) each have two, so we'll see how that pans out it the second half. Meanwhile, it's a little bit of a surprise that CMU only has one player with more than one foul (junior point guard Robbie Harman with 2). CMU is used to committing a lot of fouls, but only had six called on them in the first half. The refs are letting them play for the most part, much to the ire of a large Rose Arena crowd.

Stay tuned for additional coverage following the conclusion of this Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Central opens conference season with rival Western Michigan

The men (3-9) host archrival Western Michigan at 6 p.m. Sunday at Rose Arena.

-Update: Senior forward Chris Kellermann will likely take a medical redshirt and return next season. His ankle injury is worse than originally thought and most believe he won't risk a return and come back next season. This hurts CMU in more than one way. Kellermann is the team's leading scorer (14.4 points per game) and also averaged 5.6 rebounds in his seven games before getting injured in practice. And with junior Marko Spica out for the season with a knee injury, most MAC opposition will have an advantage down low against the Chippewas.

CMU has lost its last four games (not including a 79-47 exhibition win against Michigan-Dearborn on Monday). One bright spot, however, has been senior center Marcus Van. Van is starting to get comfortable after returning to the starting rotation Dec. 15 against Alcorn State. Van is averaging 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds since regaining the starting role.

Scouting Western Michigan: The defending MAC West champion Broncos (3-10) have struggled thus far, including losses in six of their last seven. They haven't exactly played a difficult non-conference schedule (TCU and UNLV were the only major programs they faced, both losses) and have lost to Hofstra, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Loyola (Chi.), Virginia Commonwealth, Holy Cross, Southern Illinois, and Wisconsin-Green Bay. They did beat Detroit 71-58 at home, however, which CMU lost to 67-55 at Rose Arena.

WMU returns four its five leading scorers from the team that went 20-12 overall and 12-4 in the MAC last season. It only lost Joe Reitz, who averaged 15 points and 7.9 rebouds. But his real contribution came as an emotional leader. His hustle plays really set the tone in last year's matchup at Kalamazoo. The teams split last season's two matchups, with WMU winning 72-52 in Kalamazoo and CMU pulling out a 72-68 win in Mount Pleasant.

WMU leading scorers:

PlayerPoints per game
Junior guard David Kool16.9
Senior guard Shawntes Gary11.7
Senior forward Derek Drews8.0
Junior center Donald Lawson6.6
Freshman forward Flenard Whitfield5.8
Senior guard Michael Redell4.7
Junior forward Martelle McLemore4.5
Senior guard Andre Ricks2.3
Freshman center LeMarcus Lowe1.2
Freshman guard Mike Douglas1.1