December 12, 2010

CMU falls to LSU in final minutes

BATON ROUGE, La. - Jalin Thomas and Trey Zeigler combined for 39 points but Central Michigan saw a double-digit lead slip away in the second half as it dropped its third-straight contest, losing to LSU, 59-55, at Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Saturday night.

LSU's Andre Stringer knocked down two free throws with 0:37 remaining to give the Tigers (6-2) a 55-53 lead, their first of the second half. The Chippewas (2-6) turned the ball over on three straight possessions down the stretch before freshman guard Derek Jackson knocked down a jumper with 0:04 left to cut the lead to 57-55. It was the Chippewas' first field goal since Zeigler's jumper at the 5:14 mark.

"Unfortunately we had a lack of poise again down the stretch and we shot ourselves in the foot," head coach Ernie Zeigler said. "Guys are trying to do the things we are preparing to do, but unfortunately those turnovers at such a crucial time are hard to overcome."

The Tigers outscored the Chippewas in the final five minutes, 16-6, including eight-straight free throws (six by Stringer) to end the game. The loss was CMU's fourth by seven points or less in 2010-11.

After trailing 23-21 at halftime, the Maroon and Gold started the second half with a 15-2 run. A jumper by Thomas with 13:55 to play capped the outburst, giving Central Michigan its largest lead of the game, 36-25. LSU answered with five-straight points on a jumper by Malcolm White and a three-pointer by Ralston Turner to cut the lead to six with 12:18 remaining.

"For us, it's about playing with a better sense of purpose and poise," Zeigler said. "Poise is what we've been lacking and we just have to develop it and be able to handle the pressure."

In the first half, the Chippewas led by as many as six, 18-12 with 4:27 to go, but the Tigers closed the period with an 11-3 run. Thomas hit a three-pointer with 0:05 left to bring CMU within two.

The Chippewas shot just 27.3 percent in the first half, making six of their 22 field goal attempts, but were able to knock down seven of their eight free throw attempts while the Tigers shot just 38.5 percent from the field and attempted just three free throws. Both teams improved their shooting in the second half as the Tigers outshot the Chippewas, 62.5 percent to 42.3 percent.

Thomas tallied game highs of 21 points and seven rebounds while hitting 11 of his 12 free throws. Zeigler scored 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the floor, pulling down six rebounds and recording three steals.

White, the only LSU player in double figures, paced the Tigers with 12 points. The Chippewas held the Tigers' leading scorer, Stringer, to just eight points - half of his season average, on just 1-of-6 shooting.

After playing seven of their first eight games of the season on the road, the Chippewas return to McGuirk Arena for four straight games over the holiday break beginning Dec. 14 against Wright State at 7 p.m.

Coach Zeigler Postgame

On his team's lack of execution at the end of the game

"It is really getting old. Our guys are battling and trying to do what we are asking them to do, but there comes a time where you have to have better poise down the stretch. You just have to have better poise. For the second straight game, we had our opponent on the ropes - a Big East opponent in our last game and an SEC opponent tonight - and we were just unable to play with the type of poise that you have to play with to get shot attempts in the half-court offense. We are going to keep working on it, and we are getting closer and closer. We are playing a game of horse shoes, unfortunately, and the game that we are playing is all about wins and losses. We are getting closer, but as we all know, close is not good enough."

On his team's defensive effort in the first half

"We executed well. We knew that Andre Stringer, Ralston Turner and Aaron Dotson were their leading guys, and we made the offense go to other places. We forced Stringer into six turnovers at the point, and we had good pressure and did a lot of the things that we wanted to do defensively. However, it is close but no cigar. I am just trying to think of different things to say."

On the performance of Trey Zeigler

"He really stepped up and gave us some offense to put us in position to have a chance to close out the game. He did some really good things. Hopefully we can build on that and have some level of consistency as we come home and see if we can get our first home win in McGuirk Arena."

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