Story courtesy of Central Michigan Sports Information
SALT LAKE CITY - Central Michigan started both halves hot but it was a 12:16 dry spell in the first half that was too much to overcome in a 67-51 loss to the hosts in the Utah Thanksgiving Tournament.
John Simons hit his first two attempts from the floor, both from behind the arc, but the Chippewas (2-2) went 0-for-17 over the next 12 minutes while the Utes (3-1) rattled off 17 points to take a 20-8 lead. It was the biggest lead of the half until the final minute as the Chippewas fought to keep their deficit to single-digits. Despite shooting just 26 percent from the floor, compared to the Utes' 58 percent, Central went into the locker room down just 13, 37-24.
Coming out of the break Zach Saylor hit a pair of left-handed hooks over 7-foot center Dallin Bachynski and Kyle Randall and Blake Hibbitts knocked down three-pointers as the Chippewas hit five of their first seven attempts, but the Utes wouldn't go away and Central couldn't get any closer than 11.
The Chippewas were able to stay within a manageable number with a strong effort on the boards, winning the edge on the offensive glass by two. While Saylor and Olivier Mbaigoto were keeping a lineup of much bigger centers occupied under the basket, guards Randall, Austin Keel and Austin Stewart led the Chippewas in rebounding. But on the other end of the floor shots wouldn't fall as CMU suffered a 17-of-57 outing from the floor, 8-of-31 from long range and 9-of-15 from the line.
"Not much went right for us tonight," said CMU head coach Keno Davis. "...But we can take away two positives. One is that we had only six turnovers for the entire game, coming here to a hostile environment against a Pac-12 opponent. The other is if you told me all those numbers I think we should have been down 50. So how do you keep a game almost within striking distance, where you feel like if you can make a few shots you're right back in the game? Partly because our young players play so hard. Especially coming out in that second half. There was no quit in us. We needed to improve our execution, some of the things that we did both offensively and defensively. But they're playing hard, and it's tough to be upset with them for very long when you've got a group that works as hard as our guys."
"Utah took way some of our penetration. They are as big of a team as you might see in the country. With a smaller team you've got to be able to take advantage from the free throw line and we didn't do that.
Derrick Richardson led the squad in scoring with 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting in 18 minutes off the bench.
Central Michigan and Idaho State will tip off Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET.