CMU Dominates Kent State Inside and Out to Earn First Title Since 1987
Chippewas Carry Two-Way Game into NCAA Tournament
Early in the season, when I was working on another article, UB men's basketball head coach Reggie Witherspoon explained to me that the Mid-American Conference should actually be more popular in Western New York because of the presence of future NBA stars like Central Michigan's Chris Kaman. I had never seen Kaman at the time, but saw him absolutely dominate opponents in three games in Cleveland, as he lead his team to the MAC title.
CLEVELAND, OHIO - Most experts agree that Central Michigan's seven-foot center Chris Kaman is going to play in the National Basketball Association some day.
Saturday night in the Mid-American Conference championship game, Kaman looked like he is ready to go now.
As the final horn sounded, Kaman's Chippewas barely celebrated their first MAC title since 1987, appearing as if they are destined for greater things in the NCAA Tournament after disposing with defending conference champion Kent State, 77-67 before 10,297 fans at the Gund Arena.
Kaman gave Central Michigan an inside presence that the Golden Flashes could not match, and racked up 25 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks on his way to earning Tournament Most Valuable Player honors. It was just another accolade for Kaman, who is the 2003 MAC Player of the Year and the MAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Kent State, who had their eight-game MAC Tournament winning streak snapped, had no answer for the big man. Nate Gerwig initially guarded Kaman, but picked up two fouls in the game's first minute. The Golden Flashes then went to their seven-footer, John Edwards, but he had two fouls by the 14:51 mark of the first half. Next up was KSU's Bryan Bedford, who had two fouls by 11:09.
"When our two big kids got in foul trouble it didn't give us a chance to go back at Kaman inside," KSU head coach Jim Christian said. "We obviously became a perimeter team and it really hurt us in both halves.
"They weren't even getting in foul trouble on the catch; they were getting in foul trouble before he could even catch the ball."
The Golden Flashes guarded Kaman with seldom used Brandon Roach and Clif Brown once plan "C" had to take a seat on the bench. CMU's difference maker went on to score 15 points in the first half as the Chippewas built a 37-31 lead.
"My plan wasn't to go out there and get them in foul trouble, I was just trying to get good position where I could turn around and score without putting the ball on the floor," Kaman said.
The No. 11 seed Chippewas went on to beat No. 6 Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They lost to No. 3 seeded Duke in the second round.