Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
PEORIA, Ill. - The Central Michigan men's basketball team battled foul trouble and was outrebounded by more than a 2-to-1 margin Tuesday in dropping its first game of the season.
Warren Jones scored a career-high 33 points as Bradley (3-4) handed the Chippewas an 84-73 loss at Renaissance Coliseum. It was CMU's first road game of the season and its first loss.
"Going against a strong Missouri Valley (Conference) power, you know they're going to be physical," said CMU coach Keno Davis, who saw his team finish on the bad side of a 41-20 count on the boards. "When you look at the statistics, the second-chance points, they got 11 to our two. That's pretty much the game right there. "We only got two offensive rebounds. We've got to be learn how to rebound against more physical teams."
It was the first time CMU has been outrebounded this season. The Chippewas (5-1) were trying to start 6-0 for the first time since 1963-64. They play host to Southern Illinois Edwardsville (1-3) on Saturday.
The Chippewas, who entered the game making 40.4 percent of their three-point field goal attempts, made just eight-of-24 (33.3 percent) from long range.
Despite that, and the wide rebounding discrepancy, the Chippewas hung in and were within four, 56-52, with under nine minutes remaining.
But a 16-7 Bradley run left the Chippewas in a 13-point hole, 72-59, with under 3:30 to play. CMU never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Luke Meyer, CMU's 6-foot-11 freshman center, battled foul trouble all night and picked up his fifth with 9:01 remaining. He finished with just two rebounds in 10 minutes. DaRohn Scott, another of CMU's freshmen big men, logged 13 minutes but had just one rebound.
"It's a learning experience for guys to come in here against a powerful team with Missouri Valley officials and (Meyer) fouls out in 10 minutes of play on little touch fouls," Davis. "We need to become tougher and we need to become stronger. We can't just wait for our freshmen centers to get older. We need to get it from everybody on the court."
The Chippewas kept themselves in the game by making 23 of their 30 free throw attempts. Fowler was 16-for-20 from the line, drawing fouls with regularity on hard drives to the basket.
"We knew that they had a matchup problem with Chris," Davis said. "He's so good at driving to the basket. As Rayshawn Simmons, as Austin Stewart, as Braylon Rayson become better on their drive moves it'll be nice to have more weapons there. As they improve that skill-set we'll be a tougher team offensively and a tougher team to defend."
In the long run, Davis said, the game - on the road, against a team out of the Missouri Valley Conference - should serve the Chippewas well.
"We've been talking about it all year," he said, "and probably the last couple of years: You've got to learn how to not get disrupted. You've got to make stronger plays, tougher plays and not get upset when the whistle goes against you.
"I think a lot of it is just a learning process you have to go through. I'm excited about how this game will prepare us for MAC play.
"There's nobody in our conference who's going to be more physical than (the Braves) are. We've got some (opponents) that'll be comparable and hopefully we'll be better prepared for the next time we meet somebody like Bradley."