Sunday, December 18, 2011

Impressive showing despite a loss in Ames, Iowa

CMU's John Morris is defended by Iowa State's Chris Allen on Sunday. (AP PHOTO)
Had an opportunity to take in my first CMU game this season on Sunday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, a 59-52 Iowa State victory. A few quick observations:

-- No. 1, and most impressive, was the intensity CMU showed on defense, especially in the second half. Hitting the floor for loose balls when ISU seemed hesitant paid off multiple times, and badgering the Cyclones into tough shots they weren't expecting limited them to five second-half field goals. I thought Derek Jackson's defense was phenomenal on the perimeter. He didn't have his best offensive game (2-for-9, six points), but his hustle is contagious and really sets the tone on every possession. I wouldn't want him guarding me -- let's just say that. He frustrates guys. An Ernie Zeigler guy, for sure.

-- The difference in this game (other than shoddy officiating) was CMU's six-minute field goal drought midway through the first half. The Cyclones jumped to a 27-13 lead during that span, and although the Chips closed the gap to four before ISU closed the half on a 5-0 run to take a nine-point lead, they never recovered. CMU grossly outplayed ISU the majority of the second half, but still didn't take the lead until a jumper by Trey with 7:21 left. But three turnovers along with officiating that put CMU on the free-throw line twice compared to ISU's 13 the rest of the way really hurt. I guess that's what happens when a MAC team pays $90,000 to go play at a Big 12 school. You better be 10-12 points better.

-- Trey Zeigler looked really good. He came off the bench for the second straight game and third time this season, though this one you can chalk up to dad and coach Ernie Zeigler's superstitions. Friday in a 70-67 win at home vs. Illinois-Chicago, Trey sat the first half because of team rule violations and the Chippewas were able to push through it. Sunday, coach Zeigler waited just over two and a half minutes to get Trey in the game after the Cyclones scored the first six points.

Trey shot just 6-of-14 but hit all of his free throws for the second time this season (6-for-6). He was the only CMU player to get to the line. He was able to get into the lane and draw contact, most of which went uncalled. He also knocked down a few mid-range jumpers and a 3.

ISU's Royce White led his team with
14 points, but made just three field goals.
--Zach Saylor had a solid game. The 6-8 junior has been inconsistent a large part of his career and foul trouble has been an issue. But he gave the Chippewas a low-post presence and despite just playing 12 minutes, grabbed four rebounds and had eight points, including a jumper that I didn't know he possessed.

--Austin McBroom didn't have a great game, but he's been pretty stellar this season so this was bound to happen. The freshman point guard made just 4-of-12 shots (0-for-5 from behind the arc) for eight points. It was the first game this season McBroom hasn't made at least one 3-pointer, which is pretty impressive production from the 6-foot North Hollywood, Calif., native who came in averaging 11.2 points per game. McBroom is a solid defender, too, and he and Derek Jackson (six points) made up for their offensive struggles by largely minimizing the Cyclones' guards on the other end.

--Freshman guard Austin Keel took advantage of 25 minutes of playing time and looks to be a guy who can come in and be a spark-plug for the offense. He had just five points, but looks to have a nice stroke from 3 and is more than adequate defensively.

--John Morris played just 8 minutes at the point, but I thought he ran the offense well and was totally cool and under control. He did miss an open look that could've put the Chips up by three midway through the second, but that's water under the bridge.

--Iowa State's Chris Babb didn't adjust well to CMU's defensive pressure, taking hurried shots a lot of the time and finishing 3-for-12. His teammate and ISU's leading scorer, Royce White, attempted just six field goals but went to the line 13 times. White, who likes to use his 6-8, 270, yet agile frame to get into the lane, is a 60 percent free-throw shooter, so coach Zeigler did well by not allowing his players to hand White easy baskets.

-- The foul/free throw disparity was frankly, a pretty embarrassing display by the officiating crew. This was a physical game on both ends. The numbers tell the story:

Total fouls
ISU 10, CMU 25
Second half: ISU 8, CMU 13

Free throws
ISU 18-of-27, CMU 6-6
Second half: ISU 13-of-21, CMU 4-4

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