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Head coach Keno Davis is headed back to the drawing board after Central falls 82-65 to Bradley, losing senior Zach Saylor to injury in the process.
Senior forward Olivier Mbaigoto lends help on defense against Bradley on Nov. 28. (Brittni Hengesbach | GCmag.org)
The third ever meeting between Central Michigan and Bradley University did not go the way Central had likely hoped it would. Bradley won the contest 82-65, while scoring an astounding 66 points in the paint, which outscored Central’s offense from anywhere on the floor.
Attacking the paint was Bradley coach Geno Ford‘s focus from the start, as he recognized the obvious advantage his team had against the Chippewas inside.
“They (Central) have some very young big guys who only weigh 200-205 pounds and we’re able to throw our bigs (at them), who weigh around 250 pounds, it’s going to be tough to stop us,” Ford said. “We were in the same situation last year that they are in now, they will get bigger and better.”
Central got out to a hot start with a 7-1 lead in the first five minutes, but that was the biggest lead of the night, as the Chippewas trailed for nearly the entire game. Senior forward Zach Saylor was getting good looks inside and was solidifying Central’s defense on the interior. Saylor had his promising night cut short, however, when he left and never returned after he suffered what seemed to be a knee injury.
It was obvious before the game even started that Central was going to have its hands full down low. After Wednesday’s contest, Bradley ranks 318th out of 347 Division I teams when it comes to making 3-pointers, with only 23 made through six games. The Braves focus on the inside no matter who they play, but Central was already severely undersized down low and the Saylor injury made matters much more bleak.
“Obviously we were very thin to begin with on the interior,” Central head coach Keno Davis said. “Not to make any excuses but then you take away our only true center (Saylor).”
There was no definitive answer on the seriousness of that injury or how many games Saylor will miss, but Davis was confident that his young players would be ready to step up in his absence.
“Saylor has improved on all aspects of his game and we really hope that he is well,” Davis said. “Our young players will be ready to step in and get the experience that they need.”
Central had a hard time sticking with Bradley’s veteran-laden squad, as they were only able to close the gap a few times. Davis was impressed with his teams effort but not its execution.
“I felt that our young guys fought the entire game and we will get back to the practice court to keep improving as each day comes,” Davis said. “From watching the game tape, I think it is safe to say that this was Bradley’s best effort of the season.”
Senior guard Kyle Randall led the way for the Chippewas with 21 points and five rebounds, but his four turnovers to only one assist was the story of the night for the team.
Central had a total of 18 turnovers to only 10 assists on the night. When playing a team that prides itself on its assist-to-turnover ratio as Bradley does, turning the ball over is the last thing Central wanted to do. Bradley countered with 14 assists to just nine turnovers, including only two turnovers in the first half.
Bradley returns home to host the No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines Saturday afternoon, and the Braves will look to build off of their best November in program history (5-1).
Central is back in action Sunday, hosting Niagara University, who sits at 2-4 on the season. The main concern for the Chippewas is to keep getting their younger players more experience as well as maintaining the health of their leader and big man, Zach Saylor.
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