CMU still poses challenge to KSU

Matt Goul

Junior guard Jay Youngblood drives toward the basket for a layup in a recent game against Akron.

Credit: Andrew popik

Beware of Central Michigan.

Though its 3-12 Mid-American Conference record is scrawny, one of those wins shows what can happen when taking the Chippewas lightly.

Western Michigan can attest.

The Broncos were knocked out of first place in the MAC West when they lost by 10 at Central Michigan. The Chippewas exploded for a 49-point second half in the 84-74 win a week ago. It was a turnaround from the Broncos’ prior 45-point win over the Chippewas .

The Flashes (16-10, 8-6 MAC) don’t have that much to live up to from the first time they played the Chippewas. They won by nine when the two teams met on Dec. 1.

Getting a win would be enough after losing three straight games.

“You can work on execution. You can preach and demand intensity. But at some point, to play to win has to come from the players,” said coach Jim Christian, who takes the blame for the losing streak. “But they need to dig themselves out of it.”

In home losses to Bowling Green and Southern Illinois, it was falling behind early. At Buffalo, it was buckling after establishing a first-half lead. All three losses have been struggles to stay consistent.

The only consistency in the last two losses has been Jay Youngblood’s scoring spark. He’s scored in double figures for both, but he has had his share of struggles, too.

“We just got to make shots,” Youngblood said. “We hit shots in practice every day. That’s all we got to do.”

Youngblood was no different than his teammates in his shooting struggles against the Salukis. He took 15 shots in the loss, making only four of them. He could not complain about it afterward. Neither could Christian, who liked his players’ shot selection.

They’ve gotten open. They’ve been able to penetrate to the basket. They’ve been able to force turnovers to create more opportunities, too. Finishing has been the obstacle.

“I think our team knows we’re not that far away, yet we are that far away,” Christian said. “If we don’t start competing when the game’s on the line and play with confidence and play to win and develop the killer mindset we’ve talked about for six months, then even that little bit is a big gap.”

Contact men’s basketball reporter Matt Goul at [email protected].