November 25, 2010

CMU tops UIC 62-52

CHICAGO - There was no last-second drama this time but Central Michigan didn't need any to return home with a 62-52 victory at UIC thanks to a strong defensive turnaround.

In the last of five road games to open the season, the Chippewas (2-3) held the Flames (3-3) to 33 percent (18-55) shooting from the field and 3-of-12 from three-point range.

"I am elated with what I saw (defensively)," said head coach Ernie Zeigler. "We actually responded to the challenge of taking a step forward defensively. Every guy that played in the game really focused on our defensive game plan."

William McClure sparked an 11-0 Chippewa run late in the first half that turned a three-point deficit into an eight-point, 26-18, lead with 2:08 on the clock. The Flames' only three-pointer of the first half, one minute later, stopped the bleeding for UIC, but Derek Jackson added one more bucket with under a minute left to give the Chippewas a 28-21 halftime advantage.

The second half was all CMU as the Chippewas gained their first double-digit lead of the season and had as much as a 16-point advantage at the 2:28 mark. UIC challenged with a 6-0 run to come within 10 but couldn't get any closer, being sent to the line against Central's senior lineup down the stretch.

"We knew if their bigs were able to get under the basket we wanted to make them hit foul shots," Zeigler said. "Late in the game, Will knew that and prevented the three-point play and forced their guy to the stripe. Hopefully this is something we can build on and turn the corner defensively."

The Chippewas' bench was a major factor, despite having just four players that saw the court before the waning seconds. Central's bench scored nine of the team's first 13 points and outscored UIC's bench 24-8. CMU outscored the Flames 12-0 on fast-break points and 30-10 in paint.

Coach Zeigler adjusted the starting lineup, giving shooting guard Derek Jackson his first start in place of fellow freshman Trey Zeigler.

"He's been focused on me playing better defense," Trey Zeigler said. "Last game we had a lot of mental mistakes, me personally. We gave up some threes which led to us losing that game, so he came at me personally and I just wanted to come out and respond."

Zeigler was just one of the Chippewas who responded defensively, helping hold the Flames' top two scorers to a total of just 24 points. Robo Kreps came into the game averaging 20 points and Paul Carter was right behind at 17.

"The challenge for Trey was to have better effort and focus defensively," said Coach Zeigler. "He, along with Antonio Weary, did an excellent job of shadowing Carter. Against Kreps, Derek Jackson did a great job starting it with great pressure on the ball and Amir Rashid picked it up later."

McClure recorded the first double-double of his career, notching a personal-best 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He was joined in double digits by Jalin Thomas' 13 points and Zeigler's game-high 17 points off the bench.

"(This win) was extremely important, for our own psyche going home, even for our fans," Coach Zeigler said. "To go home 1-4 would have made for a difficult scenario heading into next week. To get this first road win and not have the game come down to the last shot was very pleasing. I don't miss the drama."

The Chippewas come home to open McGuirk Arena in the brand new CMU Events Center, December 1 at 7 p.m. against Temple.

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