MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Central Michigan coach Keno Davis got what he expected from Saturday’s opponent, Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He also got what everybody has come to expect from Marcus Keene.
Keene scored 18 of his . . .
It was the Chippewas’ third-consecutive win as they improved to 7-2 on the campaign. Pine Bluff fell to 1-7.
The Lions employed an aggressive zone defense and it took the Chippewas, who never led in the first half, a bit to find their footing against the defense.
That, Davis said, is exactly what he had hoped.
“Last year we felt like we didn’t see much zone in the nonconference,” he said. “We really needed a game like this in the nonconference to help us down the road.
“The big positive for us is that not only were we able to knock down some shots, but we were able to get to the free throw line, which is always important. We don’t want to be just a perimeter team. We’ve got to be able to attack the basket. That was a good sign today.”
The Chippewas broke from a 39-39 halftime tie with a 14-5 surge early in the second half. With just over 13 minutes remaining, they owned a 55-44 lead. The Lions never got their deficit under double digits the rest of the way.
Josh Kozinski and Cecil Williams added 11 points each and David DiLeo had 10 for the Chippewas. CMU continued to shoot well from long range, making 15 of their 38 triple tries (39.5 percent). They have made 38 percent of their 3-pointers in their last four games combined.
“We knew we needed to come out and punch them in the mouth, come out and play hard” in the second half, Kozinski said. “And we did that.”
While Pine Bluff’s zone defense gave the Chippewas plenty to hash out, CMU followed a familiar script otherwise: Its depth took its toll and drained another opponent in the second half.
“We’re a fast-paced team,” Keene said. “We’ve been running since preseason and last off season. The coaches got us in shape to where we can play two full halves, full-speed both halves, and we can wear teams down.”
Williams led the Chippewas with 11 rebounds. CMU, which made 17 of its 22 free throw attempts, held a 40-37 edge on the glass. Williams, a junior transfer in his first season as a Chippewa, came within a bucket of his second double-double of the season.
“I think the thing about Cecil, and the thing I’m most impressed about, is I thought he had an average game,” Davis said. “And when you go get almost a double-double and you’re average out there, I think that’s exciting. ... He didn’t play his best and he had eight points and 11 rebounds, which would be the best for a lot of guys.”
The Chippewas play host to Green Bay on Tuesday (7 p.m.) in a nonconference game. CMU defeated the Phoenix, 89-77, on the road a week ago.