KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Coach Ernie Zeigler knew Central Michigan University’s 42-40 halftime lead was a little bit of fool’s gold since the scoring pace favored Western Michigan University on its home floor. The second half proved that as the Broncos posted 46 points in the late frame en route to an 86-76 WMU win. “Our defensive effort was poor,” coach Ernie Zeigler said. “The score and the pace was where we could not win the game. We have to be able to get stops. We’ve got to learn from this, go home and defend the home court, and keep getting better.” The Chippewas shot 57 percent in the opening half and made eight three-pointers to compensate for a disparity at the foul line as the Broncos were 13-for-18 from the stripe compared to CMU’s measly 2-for-3. After an Eddie Spencer tip-in opened the second half and gave CMU a four-point lead, Western Michigan rattled off a 25-7 run that included a pair of 9-0 spurts.
The first 9-0 run was capped off by a David Kool three-pointer with 15:47 left that gave Western Michigan its largest lead to that point and forced Zeigler and the Chippewas to call a timeout. That timeout couldn’t halt WMU’s rally as the Broncos shot 57 percent in the second stanza and 56 percent for the game. Meanwhile, CMU’s shots weren’t falling like they were in the first and the Chippewas hit just 39 percent after the break and finished 48 percent for the game. After WMU mounted a 15-point lead, CMU was able to get it down to 10 on a layup by Marko Spica with 1:25 remaining. The Chippewas pressed and Spica got a steal seconds later but Eddie Spencer missed a good look at a three-point attempt and the Chippewas would only get as close as nine after that. Western ended up going 30-for-39 from the line while CMU was 12-for-15. “
Western did a good job of spacing the floor,” Zeigler said. “We tried pressuring the guards and at times the pressure was hurting them. They knocked down shots and got the ball to (Joe) Reitz down low and he’s a load down there. “We have to figure out ways to become a better defensive team. That’s what we have to be about. We’re not going to outscore teams in a shootout or out-talent anyone. We have to grind out victories.” CMU had a balanced attack with four players in double figures. Giordan Watson scored a team-high 19 to go along with seven assists. Jordan Bitzer tallied 15 points as CMU’s starting backcourt each hit four three-pointers apiece. Spica added 11 points off the bench and Sefton Barrett 10. Returning second team All-MAC pick Joe Reitz led Western with 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting. The Broncos also had four players hit twin figures with Kool adding 15, Michael Redell 14 and Derek Fracalossi 12. The Chippewas now open a three-game homestand on Friday, Jan. 19, when Ball State comes to town. Tipoff in Rose Arena is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be televised throughout northern and central Michigan on the CMU PBS Network.
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