YPSILANTI, Mich. — Eastern Michigan University is hosting the first of many of what Eagle fans are hoping to become a staple of tournaments in the world of NCAA basketball. The Eastern Michigan University “Iceman” Classic, being played November 14-20, 2012 at the friendliest basketball arena in the Mid-American Conference-the Convocation Center.
Eastern Michigan University basketball coach Rob Murphy said after the Eagles defeated Eastern Illinois University 60-52, Friday night, his team needed to get over the defeat at Jacksonville State University and work on some issues that plagued the Eagles.
Eastern Michigan University needed to find two things against the Panthers, the first issue is to score some points and the second point for the Eagles needed to do and that is to hang on to the ball.
“Tough game tonight, tough first game of out tournament, knew it would be tough,” Murphy said. “Coming off a lost on the road actually we had to address some things when we came back as far about being out rebounded in our first lost on the road executing on offense.”
Murphy said it is tough because the point guard position is young and inexperienced but the season is only three games old – plenty of time.
Answering the call for the Eagles, shooting guard Derrick Thompson who led all scorers with 22 points and forward Daylen Harrison who scored 18 points including shooting 11 of 11 from the free throw line.
The Eagles closed out the game by going on an 18-4 run that was led by the timely rebounding of Eagles’ center Da’Shonte Riley who pulled down seven rebounds and blocked three shots.
“I thought that we got off on a good start, Derrick hit a three early we were in the flow of the game,” Murphy said. “We jumped into our 1-2-2 press and things became stagnate and we started to struggle again to score.”
The Eagle defense rose up and challenged the shots from the Panthers shooters, the Eagles blocked 10 shots, led by senior forward Jalen Harris with four blocks.
“Glenn Bryant did a nice job at erasing some shots, Da’Shonte early he started off the game well, blocking shots and a big presence in there,” Murphy said. “Our length helps us in those situations and sometime just to get shots altered and get guys to miss shots helps us as well.”
The first half for the Eagles the offense struggled because of the both team’s defense dictating the flow of the game.
Eastern Illinois University enjoyed a 26-23 halftime lead by basically taking charges on defense and making the Eagle offense decide whether they wanted to push the tempo up to make the game a quick game or slow down the tempo and play the more deliberate half-court style of offense.
The Panthers were led by forward Sherman Blanford, he scored 14 points and put his hand on and pull down nine rebounds for Eastern Illinois University.
Murphy is rotating point guard giving the young freshman valuable playing time and experience and some veteran the ability to contribute to the team with confidence and knowledge but Murphy said the point guard position is still a huge project this season.
In the second half Murphy looked down his bench and called upon Austin Harper to get into the game and deliver. Harper scored five points and three assist but with a season of experience and that is something that Murphy is leaning a little on Harper’s shoulders and his aim to help his club manage the early portion of the schedule.
“I told Austin walking out of the locker room the beginning of the second half, to stay ready, don’t lose your confidence,” Murphy said about Harper. “I know what you can give us and you may be the one to come in and give us a lift and that is what he did tonight.”
“I pretty much know what I am going to get from Austin day-in-day out; game-to-game. He actually played the best at Jacksonville on the road. So I didn’t want to take Jalen (Ross) out of the starting lineup. I want to make sure Ray (Lee) was the first sub as we have been doing,” Murphy said about his rotation at point guard. “It gives those guys confidence and get the minutes on the floor it is tough for freshman playing Division 1 basketball, making the adjustment”
Murphy said that each player brings a unique style and game to the position but nothing beats experience at the point guard.
“Jalen does not have great size or great athleticism but he has a great head game. Ray is a super athlete but he has to learn to see the game,” Murphy said. “Im going to stick with those guys we are going to keep working at it as the season goes along. That is our biggest struggle, if you don’t have a point guard that can solidify things for you on the floor it is tough on everybody else and everybody suffers and that is why I think we struggled to score today.”
In the second half we were down, we were able to show some toughness, some fight, Murphy said. “The last six minutes we made some big shots, were able to get some rebounds and get some stops and we were able to pull out the victory. Sometime it is ugly, today was an ugly win.”
Eastern Michigan University will continue to play and host the “Iceman” Classic, Saturday November 17, 2012 at the Convocation Center when the Eagles welcome Indiana-Purdue-Ft. Wayne or affectingly referred to as IPFW. The tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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.