CMU Men Smother Ohio In MAC Opener

By Published: 1/3/2018 6:46:42 AM Custom Tag

Chippewas flex their defensive muscle in improving to 12-2

Andy Sneddon,

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - One game, CMU men's basketball coach Keno Davis cautioned, does not a season make.

Still, there was an awful lot to like both immediately and in the long-term potential for Davis and the Chippewas on Tuesday as they opened Mid-American Conference play with a 75-50 victory over Ohio at McGuirk Arena.

The Chippewas held the Bobcats, who came in averaging 79.8 points per game, to a season-low point total; won the rebounding battle, 44-35; and forced 17 turnovers.

It was the latest example of what is becoming CMU's calling card: Solid defense, which has been the catalyst for the Chippewas' strong start during which they won a program-record 11 nonconference game against just two losses.

CMU (12-2), which has won four straight games, entered Tuesday's contest holding opponents to 65.4 points per game, which ranks 42nd nationally. CMU finished last season ranked 345th.

"It's the effort that we've seen since the summer," Davis said. "It's the commitment that each player has given to not only work hard, but to understand that the way we won games ... last year was by outscoring teams and to be able to change completely.

"Yes we're still going to shoot the 3 and we're going to an up-tempo team, but how much we were going to commit on defense -- we knew that was going to be the staple this year and there weren't any guys fighting it and they were proud to work that hard in practice."

David DiLeo scored 22 points and Cecil Williams had 15 points, nine rebounds and a career-high six assists to lead CMU, which extended its win streak against Ohio to five games. Shawn Roundtree Jr. added 13 points and Luke Meyer had 12.

The Bobcats made just 35.7 percent of their field goal tries, and were 3-of-20 from 3-point range. The three triples was a season-low for Ohio (7-6), which got 19 points from Mike Laster and 13 from Teyvion Kirk.

It was the lowest point total for a Chippewa opponent in a MAC game since CMU held Ohio to 49 points on Jan. 23, 2016.

"We knew they had a lot of guys who could shoot the ball really well so we went in focused on taking their shots away ... and helping each other out and playing team defense," DiLeo said. "We know it's not going to be one guy going out and locking down a guy, we've got to do it collectively as a team."

The Chippewas took the lead for good, 16-14, on a Meyer dunk with under 14 minutes to play in the first half. CMU led at the break, 37-31, and then started the second half with a 15-0 surge to bump the advantage to 21, 52-31.

The Chippewas got 3-pointers from Roundtree, Meyer and Gavin Peppers during their spurt, after which Ohio never got closer than 18 points and CMU led by as many as 28.

DiLeo made six of his 12 triple tries and finished 7-of-13 from the floor on the night. In his last four games, the 6-foot-7 sophomore forward has averaged 20.7 points and is a combined 20-for-43 (46.5 percent) from 3-point range.

"I've got confidence in my shot and it starts with my teammates and coaches having confidence in me and they're always telling me to shoot it as soon as I have an open look," DiLeo said. "Their confidence in me helps to know that I have the green light to shoot it and when I'm open I'm going to let it fly. It's been feeling good lately both in practice and in the games."

CMU goes to Kent State on Saturday (7 p.m.). The Golden Flashes are 6-8 after dropping their MAC opener at Northern Illinois, 75-61, on Tuesday.

"I think we probably opened some eyes around the league already," said Davis, whose team ranks first in the MAC defensively. "Tonight's another instance of that. We talked about it in the locker room that it's a great win and we should enjoy it, but one game doesn't mean where you are as a team.

"We know we have a ways to go to try to improve both defensively and offensively. This team works extremely hard and I think we can get a lot better. A lot of things went right tonight. There's going to be nights where a lot of things don't go right and we've got to be able to find other ways and get better."

Published: 1/3/2018 6:46:42 AM Custom Tag