November 16, 2010

CMU falls to Hawaii in close game

HONOLULU - Just as in the first two games of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, Central Michigan gave host Hawaii all it could handle for 40 minutes, going down to the wire with the Warriors before falling, 65-62, in the nationally-televised contest.

An intentional foul sent the Warriors' Hiram Thompson to the bench and put Derek Jackson on the line with :44.5 remaining and the Chippewas (1-2) down two, 63-61. Jackson hit one of two at the line and CMU maintained possession underneath its own basket.

A jump shot in the paint from Trey Zeigler bounced off the front of the rim and the Chippewas were forced to foul the Warriors' Zane Johnson to stop the clock at just 5.9 seconds. Johnson hit one of two free throws to put the Warriors (3-0) back up two, 64-62.

With the Chippewas out of timeouts and having to go the length of the floor, Hawaii used a full-court press to force CMU into a turnover. Jackson's inbounds pass left his hands at the same time Zeigler was bumped from behind and Zeigler was unable to control the ball as it bounced out of bounds.

The Chippewas had one more attempt after Hawaii hit one of two free throws, but a last-second half-court heave hit off the backboard.

"We are going to be a good team," said head coach Ernie Zeigler. "And eventually good teams win these one-possession games. We were in three situations here this week where we were right there and had a chance to win. We came up short in two of them but hopefully it's going to help this young team get ready for conference play."

It was the third consecutive tight ball game for the Chippewas, who defeated Cal State Fullerton with a buzzer-beater in the opening round of the tournament, and fell in overtime to Montana State after a shot at the end of regulation didn't drop.

"I am really pleased with how we battled," said Coach Zeigler. "We need to get better down the stretch, but overall I am really pleased with the effort of this young team. We grew and we fought through some adversity."

Zeigler started three newcomers, including two true freshman, against a very sizable Hawaii lineup. Trey Zeigler started at point guard for the first time this season, Jackson had the start at the other guard and transfer forward Andre Coimbra got the first start of his Chippewa career.

"(The lineup) got us off to a good start," said Coach Zeigler. "We started Andre because of Hawaii's size and he gave us some really good minutes. We need to get him some more shot attempts. We took way too many three's against the zone tonight and we need to get the ball to him under the basket."

The Warriors never led by more than nine in the first half and never by more than seven in the second. The Chippewas used a 13-2 run late in the first period, with three true freshmen - Zeigler, Jackson and Colin Voss - on the floor, to turn an eight-point deficit into a three-point lead, going up 28-25 at the 5:05 mark. They increased their lead to four two minutes later and went into the break up one, 34-33.

The second half saw three ties and seven lead changes as the Warriors led for the final four minutes, but never by more than one possession.

"They were really able to make their foul shots in that middle 10 minutes of the second half that kept us at bay," said Coach Zeigler. "We were fighting and battling to get good shots and they were at the foul line. To our dismay they were able to create that advantage. That was the primary difference when we were going back and forth."

Zeigler led all players with 24 points in 37 minutes and grabbed a team-high five rebounds while all-tourament team honoree Jalin Thomas added 14 points.

For Hawaii, it was the closest game of the tournament as they finished with a 3-0 record, defeating Montana State by 18 points, 77-59, and Cal State Fullerton by 14, 84-70.

"We had a lot of disappointment in the locker room because our goal was to come here and win three games," Coach Zeigler said, "but this entire tournament has been a great experience and opportunity for our program. From a team building standpoint, from an educational standpoint, to experiencing a different culture and seeing a different part of the country, all those things are going to be beneficial to these young men. So overall it was a successful tournament. Even though we came out of this 1-2, it is really clear that we have something special here."

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