Wednesday, January 14, 2009

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.

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