AKRON, Ohio --- Just another Saturday night in the city were the rubber meets the road is made and is the home of the best basketball team that calls this city on the banks of the Cuyahoga River home and is the best squad in the Mid-American Conference. Uncle Mel entered the world-famous John A. Rhoads Arena on the campus of the University of Akron, along with the largest home crowd of the season. He found his seat with his refreshments in hand and a program and so your old Uncle Mel got comfortable in his seat and waited with anticipation for a basketball game between two division leaders Eastern Michigan University from the west and cream of the crop from the east the University of Akron. Uncle Mel and 4,233 basketball fans watched a team flexing their mighty muscle and their combine talent working with surgeon-like precision slice up the opposing defense like a package of Wonder Bread. The University of Akron defeated Eastern Michigan University 77-47, the Zips dominated every where on the court. Eastern Michigan University basketball coach Rob Murphy sat on the bench and watched his team work hard with little result but he said after the game this is the direction he is taking the Eagle program-the University of Akron’s way. “Yeah it is tough!” Murphy described the Eagles defeat to the Zips. “A very good team, a good program and a NCAA Tournament team with most of there guys back. So it was good you know to see where we are and were I want to take this program,” Murphy said after the game. “I think we came out and we did not play well from the start. We did not do anything great.” The Eagles entered the arena after dropping a heartbreaker in overtime in Oxford, Ohio against Miami University, Feb 1, 2012. The Eagles gave away an 11 point lead and then gave up 16 points in overtime against the Red Hawks and left the court towing with them a 62-57 defeat. “I told the guys we have to put Miami behind us but I think the effects of the last three minuets of the game and losing a game in the palm of your hands,” Murphy said. “Continue to affect us but I can see it in practice the last two days and I told the guys you have to pop out of it can’t rest on that and it is over.” The only players that left the agony of defeat behind in Oxford, Antoine Green and Matt Balkema and Murphy said that he needed 100 percent of the team to forget the losses and mistakes but because of the past history, the young players and some of the veterans are devastated when a mistakes happen on the court. “I can tell that it really bothered them and opposed them that they put it behind instead they let it effect them and you can not let that effect you when you coming into the house of Akron who is a first place team and I believe undefeated in this building in conference play” Murphy said. Eastern Michigan University played the entire game in their 2-3 zone defense and for a brief moment the Zips looked confused but it only lasted longer than the lack of ice in the warm cola that Uncle Mel tried to enjoyed. Akron’s point guard Alex Abreu pass the ball around the perimeter you and could here University of Akron basketball coach Keith Darmbrot shout to his team on the court everybody gets a touch on the ball. In the middle of the Akron offense stood a 7-foot center Zeke Marshall waiting for the his chance to touch the ball. The Eagle defense played tough but he found a way to get to the basket over Eagles 7-foot post player Da’Shonte Riley. Murphy wanted his defense to push the Zips out to the perimeter and contest the jump shot and to limit the touches that Marshall would receive in the paint and under the basket but the zone did collapsed but too many times the Eagles found themselves out of position for rebounds. Marshall scored 11 points for the game shooting 3 of 7 from the floor but the Eagles had no answer for the rest of the Akron offense. The Zips had four players in double figures including Marshall and led by Chauncey Gilliam 13 points. Akron out rebounded the Eagles 46-29 getting 20 offense rebounds and the Zips turned those into 15 second-chance points. “Today I though the defense what we are built on and what we have done all year in each every game, we did not do it at all today,” Murphy said about his team’s defense. “The first play of the game this team scored on us right in the middle of our zone and that has not happen all year. Teams usually struggle two or three minutes trying to figure it out.” As Uncle Mel sat in his seat and watched and what he saw was a team struggling with a team that was bigger and physical and also a team searching for answers and finally a team that fell back to some old bad habits that this team played with last season. Murphy will have to be more than a coach this week, he is going to have be a teacher and a father-like figure to his young team and including the upper-class because Uncle Mel could see that old Eagles appearing and there is no joy in losing by 30 points. Last season, the coaching staff would take the emotion of making any mistake and a lost of a game so personnel and it made some fans and players uncomfortable to watch. Many times during a timeout many Eagles feared walking over to the bench and did not want to huddle because of the tongue lashing they would receive for a mistakes. The emotional roller-coaster became like an unbalance yoke for the Eagles. They would break from the huddle and walk on the court with an even more look of confusion and fear. Confusion and fear is a deadly combination that Murphy needs to get his team through because this game is played physically but according to former Eastern Michigan University women’s coach Suzy Merchant who told Uncle Mel there is also the emotion element that your player plays with out on the court and that it is an important part of any team’s success. “You got to continue motivate and coach them to let them know that you have to play the next game, it is like coaching the next play,” Murphy said about getting his team ready to move on through the rest of the season. “You can’t turn the ball over but you can’t hang your head, with in seconds you have to be thinking about the next move whether you are on offense or defense.” “It is the same concept also when you lose a game,” Murphy said. “You put it behind you and you move on and I think here and trying to change the culture here guys revert back to what they are use to and how it use to be well you can’t do that. That is what we are teaching and that is what we believe in” Murphy is teaching his team valuable life lesson - it is nice to win but you can not win every time and you have to deal with and workout life’s disappointment. “You are going to lose some games but you have to push forward,” Murphy said. “You can’t rest on what happen and that is winning or losing.” Eastern Michigan University is still sitting on top of the West Division of the league and this is a position that the Eagles are not familiar with especially with an offense averaging 52.7 points after 23 games and Murphy tells everybody that the Eagles are not an offense juggernaut. “We are fortunate to be in first place in the West at this time,” Murphy said about his team’s position in the division. “I just told our guys that we are fortunate and to still be playing for a championship. It is not the end of the world let get back tomorrow and regroup and practice for two days and get prepared for Kent on our home floor we have been playing well at home and protect out home floor.” The Eagles have only one loss at home and that came at the expense of Central Michigan University who have lost seven straight since their visit to Ypsilanti. “There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Murphy said. “We got to keep focused on the next game.”
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.