MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Four nights after surrendering a season-high 98 points at Brigham Young, the Central Michigan Chippewas flipped the script.
John Simons scored 18 points and Luke Meyer added 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds Tuesday as the Chippewas topped Howard, 72-52, at McGuirk Arena.
The win lifted CMU to 6-5 heading into play at William & Mary (6-3) on Tuesday Dec. 29.
CMU held the Bison (7-6) to . . .
Daniel, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, entered the game averaging a best-in-the-nation 29.3 points per game.
“The coaches put a challenge to the players to see if we could hold him under his average and see how much we could take him out of the game, make all of his shots tough,” said CMU guard Rayshawn Simmons, who was assigned to bird-dog Daniel throughout most of the night.
“I just tried to stay down, make everything hard for him, deny him, wear him down over 40 minutes,” said Simmons, who finished with 11 points – all of which came in the second half -- and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season and the second of his career. “I feel pretty confident in my defense just because of where I come from. My junior college and my high school programs (emphasize) defense.”
The key to stopping Daniel, CMU coach Keno Davis said, was to make him work hard for everything he got, even touches.
“We told (our players) that he couldn’t score if he didn’t have the ball,” Davis said. “We tried to deny him (the ball) as much as we could and although that might not have worked in the first half, it might have had a wearing-down effect on him, on his legs, to have to run to get open, to bring the ball up against pressure.”
The Chippewas’ performance against Daniel and the Bison, who entered averaging 81-plus points per game, was a confidence builder, Davis said.
“Coming off a game where defense was the one area where we didn’t play great at BYU,” Davis said, “I knew our guys wanted to come away on a positive note, not just by winning the game, but by coming out and maybe sending a little bit of a message that we can be a good defensive team this year -- even if that isn’t the first thing you talk about when you talk about the makeup of our team.”
Chris Fowler added 11 points for the Chippewas, who seized a 36-31 halftime lead, then broke it open with a 19-5 spurt to start the second half.
Simons, who was 6-for-12 from 3-point range on the night, hit a pair of triples during the surge, which ended on a DaRohn Scott free throw with 12:26 to play and the Chippewas up 19, 55-36.
CMU’s lead grew to as many as 22 points, and Howard never got closer than 15 the rest of the way.
It was the first career double-double for Meyer, a 6-foot-11 sophomore center who has started every game since he set foot on campus last season.
Tuesday’s game was perhaps his best all-around performance. He finished 7-for-8 from the floor. Four of his 13 rebounds came on the offensive end, and he had two blocks. The Chippewas scored 20 second-chance points and outrebounded the Bison, 45-30.
“Being a freshman I really didn’t know a whole lot about what I was doing,” Meyer said. “I was kind of thrown right into it, but that made me mature as a player quite a bit and be able to function in tight situations.
“I try to play as hard as I can, that’s what I try to focus on every game, the stats and everything will take care of themselves. Luckily the ball went in the basket for me today and I got a lot of rebounds.”
(Courtesy of CMU Athletics)