YPSILANTI —- Eastern Michigan University basketball coach Rob Murphy said after his team drop the last game of the regular season, a 78-67 lost to the University of Toledo Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center, “ The tournament season is a chance for everybody to get a fresh start.”
Eastern Michigan University finished the 2013 basketball season with an overall record of 14-17 and a 7-9 record in the Mid-American Conference West Division and that was good enough for a fourth place finish and a No. 7 seed for the First Energy 2013 Mid-American Conference Basketball Tournament.
Eastern Michigan University found that revenge is sweet by defeating the No. 10 seed Northern Illinois University, 45-44, Monday night in front of an intimate crowd of just 302 basketball fans inside the Convocation Center.
“We controlled the game in the first half. We got out to a early lead but we did not execute on the offense side of the ball,” Murphy said. “In the second half we came out and played really good defense but again we did not execute on offense but tonight our defense did such a great job of keeping the lead when we had it, we just wanted to protect it going down the stretch.”
It felt like a tournament game with plenty of raw emotion from both teams that made the game a physical game with a lot of hacking, smacking of skin and bodies diving on the floor getting to loose balls.
“Sometimes it is tough to play a team that has nothing to lose,” Murphy said about the Huskies. “I give Northern Illinois a lot of credit, they played well against Ball State and lost there two leading scorers and almost won that game. They came in here with those guys and played extremely hard and had a chance to win. I give coach (Mike) Montgomery a lot of credit coming in here and having his team prepared.”
The emotion started right from the tip off when Eastern Michigan University center 7-foot Da’Shonte Riley leaped into the air and spiked the ball into the floor instead of tipping the ball to a team mate.
Riley kept the emotion flowing and made his presence felt on the court by getting in the middle on defense and clogging it up, he made Huskies shooter’s alter their shots, he also found rebounds and points, Murphy said after the game that the play of Riley was the difference and key for the success of the Eagles.
“It is that time of the year, March is you know it is win or go home!,” Riley said. “I wanted to show my team that I was ready to take the next step and lead them if need be were we want to be win the MAC championship and advance in the post season play. It is that time of the year.”
Riley is hoping to lead by example, he came to Eastern Michigan University after spending two season at Syracuse University, so he has valuable experience playing in the post season.
“The biggest difference in the game tonight obviously and sitting to the left of me,” Murphy said while pointing to Riley. “He had a double-double 13 points and 11 rebounds, 5 of 5 from the field and four block shots and probably six or seven altered shots. He was able to create some misses for us.”
The Eagles could have been on the other end of the score according to Murphy, the Eagles need to learn how to close out games and especially make free throws.
Eastern Michigan University only scored 17 points in the second half but for the game the Eagles finished shooting a respectable 44.7 percent from the field but the lack of free throws not being, made Murphy nervous sitting on the bench.
The Eagles shot just 53.8 percent from the free throw line.
The point guard play during the season is an on going project that Murphy and his coaching staff work with everyday and getting freshman Jalen Ross comfortable with his role as the quarterback of the offense has created some tense moments during the season.
Murphy said that he thought that Ross made some strides toward getting better against the Huskies tonight but there is always room for improvement and growth for Ross.
“I give (Jalen) Ross a lot of credit for not playing many minutes he came in and handled the ball today,” Murphy said about his freshman point guard. “Probably had one turnover but he hit a big three for us to take the lead and win the game.”
Ross finished the game with five points, two turnovers and one assist playing just 12 minutes.
Eastern Michigan University played there 2-3 zone defense and again the defense created missed shots by the Huskies that created rebound opportunities for the Eagles.
Eastern Michigan University out rebounded Northern Illinois University 33-28, the Huskies finished the game shooting 31 percent from the floor.
Leading the Huskies in scoring forward Aksel Bolin with nine points and he also hulled in six rebounds for Northern Illinois University.
“I am excited to see what happens,” Murphy said about going to Cleveland.. “I love the post season something that I’ve been a part of all the time and I told these guys it is about winning. This is the most important time of the year.’
Eastern Michigan University next game will be Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio at the Quicken Loan Arena against Miami University. The tip off will be 9 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.