Kaman, supporting cast make nice fit

Erik Cassano and Erik Cassano

CLEVELAND — Central Michigan’s basketball team isn’t a one-man show.

You don’t get to be the first seed in the Mid-American Conference

tournament by being that.

Chris Kaman just makes them look that way.

The 7′-0′ junior center may be the most dominant big man in the

conference since Nate Thurmond patrolled the paint for Bowling Green in

the early ’60s. Scuttlebutt has had him coming out of college a year

early to join the NBA or becoming a lottery pick after next year. Any or

none of the above may happen. That doesn’t matter right now, at least to

the BG basketball team, back home now with their season over.

Kaman was an unscaleable wall in BG’s 87-70 loss to the Chippewas in

the MAC tournament quarterfinals at Gund Arena last night. He scored 25

points, demonstrating on a few occasions his quick pivot step and

ability to stuff the ball home with either hand. He owned the boards at

both ends of the floor with 14 rebounds, six offensive, and tossed in

three emphatic blocks for good measure.

‘I love Kaman, how he plays. I hope he stays in [college],’ BG coach

Dan Dakich said. ‘It is good for our league, fun to play against good


But to call Kaman the sole reason BG lost would overlook a host of

other problems that played into the Falcons’ demise. Kaman was indeed a

wall for BG, but there were other hurdles, some of them only visible by

looking in a mirror.

Kaman is surrounded by a small but pesky team. From the opening tip,

the Chippewas were buzzing around the court, in the faces of BG at the

offensive end, hounding whoever had the ball. Central Michigan didn’t

handle the ball with kid gloves themselves, with 15 turnovers, but

pressured a BG team that usually strives to take care of the ball into

19 turnovers. J.R. Wallace had six steals, Tony Bowne three.

‘It was a bit like dripping water,’ Dakich said. ‘Just constant,

constant pressure on defense [by Central].’

The Falcons helped Kaman by letting the teeth get knocked out of what

remains of their frontcourt. At halftime, both Kevin Netter and Cory

Eyink had three fouls, putting them on the bench for the start of the

second half. When Dakich put them in, they promptly finished the job,

both fouling out with over five minutes to play. The waning moments of

the game gave the forgettable sight of 6′-5′ Cory Ryan with his forearm

to Kaman’s back in the low post. Somebody had to guard him, and with no

Netter or Eyink, apparently Ryan drew the short straw.

At one point in the second half, BG had a quintet of Ryan, John

Reimold, Raheem Moss, Ron Lewis and Cole Magner on the floor.

Essentially five guards. Reimold was the tallest at 6′-6′.

The Falcons have had a case of raw nerves in the second half of the

season. Depletion by injuries and foul trouble will do that sometimes.

Against Central, BG’s patience was tested one last time. Ryan was nailed

with a technical foul for an undisclosed reason in the second half. The

Falcon bench got another later in the half when Dakich lost his temper

after a perceived non-call on a three-second violation against Kaman.

Dakich tossed his coat, getting a reaction from the Central crowd.

Dakich didn’t have an answer for Central, and doesn’t think there might

have been one for his team right now.

‘For our basketball team, this is probably the one team in the

conference we don’t match up with,’ he said. ‘I knew this was a

difficult match-up.’

Matching up against any team has been difficult for BG, finishing the

season with six scholarship players active. With the way they played

much of the final six weeks of the season, it is a triumph in itself

that BG made it to Cleveland. But you probably can’t tell that to the

players who have to wait nearly nine months to wash the taste of this

defeat out of their mouths.

Reimold was listless and drained at the postgame news conference.

Twenty points and 5-for-9 from beyond the arc didn’t brighten his mood.

‘That’s two of us he doesn’t listen to,’ Dakich said with a laugh after

a reporter had to repeat a question to Reimold.

Dakich was only trying to have some fun with his team, buoy their

spirits after a long, hard season. The kind of season players didn’t

know they were signing on for when they decided to play college

basketball. Somehow, nine guys and a coaching staff got enough energy

and resolve to get to Cleveland. But fumes make bad fuel, and every

mistake can be the one that ends your season.

‘Our ratty-ass team has been battling all year long, in every

situation,’ Dakich said. ‘I got a kick out of this team, out there

battling their brains out. We finished the season with three games in

five days, not one guy complaining about being tired. They just left it

all out on the floor.

‘That’s what makes college basketball so great.’