February 3, 2011

CMU offense comes to life in win over Ohio

MOUNT PLEASANT - Central Michigan scored its most points against a Division I opponent in regulation since 2003, defeating Ohio, 91-85, at McGuirk Arena Wednesday night.

The Chippewas (6-15, 3-5 MAC) used hot shooting to spark a 22-7 run over the last 7:46 of the first half that allowed them to turn a 25-17 deficit into a 39-32 halftime lead.

Sophomore guard Finis Craddock started the array of three-point field goals off at the 7:17 mark before knocking down his second of the half nearly two minutes later. Derek Jackson gave CMU its first lead of the game with 4:24 remaining in the first half, 29-27, on an assist from Andre Coimbra. After a Reggie Keely tip-in, Craddock hit another three to give the Chippewas the lead back, then knocked down his third three of the half with 34 seconds to go, giving him 10 first-half points.

The Chippewas finished the first half shooting a perfect 7-for-7 from behind the arc and ended the game 9-of-13 (69.2 percent) for their highest three-point percentage since the team shot 70.6 percent (12-of-17) versus Marshall on Jan. 16, 2002.

"We had an offensive explosion here tonight," head coach Ernie Zeigler said. "We've talked a lot with this group of guys about playing more confidently on offense and being more aggressive, and we saw a lot of our young guys take a strong step forward tonight."

The Maroon and Gold wasted no time extending their lead to start the second half, as senior Jalin Thomas knocked down a three just 16 seconds in for a 42-32 lead. William McClure would keep the lead at 10 at the 18:02 mark with a three-point play on an assist from freshman Trey Zeigler.

CMU capped a 13-6 run to start the second half on the most exciting play of the game. Freshman Derek Jackson came up with a steal on Ohio's D.J. Cooper only to drive and find Zeigler on an alley-oop. The play gave the Chippewas their largest lead of the game, 52-38, at the 15:18 mark.

The Bobcats staged several comeback attempts, coming within five with 8:32 remaining, but the Chippewas quickly regained an 11-point lead with a 6-0 run over the next minute and a half. Six straight points by Cooper pulled the Bobcats within eight, 76-68, at the 2:49 mark and Ohio came as close as four, 85-81, on two free throws by Ricardo Johnson. The Chippewas hit 11-of-12 free throws over the last 1:22 of the game to secure the victory.

CMU used a 35-28 edge on the glass, while outrebounding the Bobcats, 15-9, on the offensive end. The Maroon and Gold finished the game shooting 28-for-55 for a season-high 50.9 percent.

Zeigler led the Chippewas with 24 points while dishing out five assists with zero turnovers. Thomas posted 22 points, including knocking down 11 of his 14 free throw attempts. Antonio Weary led the Chippewas with nine rebounds, including six on the offensive end.

Jackson and Craddock each recorded double-digit scoring efforts in back-to-back games for the first times in their young careers, posting 14 and 12 points respectively. Freshman Colin Voss finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds, both career highs.

"Colin took a strong step forward," Zeigler said. "We know that he can be a scoring threat as well as a very good rebounder. He brings us a physical presence down there, and he did an excellent job of finishing at the foul line. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Finis as well. I think for the first time in their careers, he and Derek had back-to-back double-figure performances, so there's a level of confidence there."

Cooper led the Bobcats with 30 points, while Tommy Freeman scored 16, Johnson 11 and DeVaughn Washington 10 to give Ohio four players in double figures.

The Chippewas' 91 points were the most against a Division I opponent in regulation since scoring 94 against Northern Illinois on March 14, 2003, in the MAC Tournament semifinals.

CMU will be back in action on Saturday when they travel to Kent, Ohio to take on the Golden Flashes of Kent State. ESPNU will air the game, with tipoff set for 5 p.m.


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