The crowd at McGuirk arena gathered for a MAC conference showdown between in-state rivals Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan University on Tuesday night.
The CMU Chippewas were riding high and hoping to continue their momentum against the visiting Eagles as they prepare for a run in March. However, the contest was not without some added difficulty, as the Chippewas were missing two starters, Devontae Lane (injury) and Dallas Morgan (illness).
Despite missing two key players, the Chippewas were able to take a lead into the half thanks in large part to 8 three point buckets. The Eagles were able to keep things relatively close on the back of stellar three point shooting of their own by Italian guard, Thomas Binelli, who hit 4 straight in the first half. The Chippewas kept the Eagle attack at bay and out of the hands of 7-foot Senegalese big man, Boubacar Toure. The strategy paid off in the first half, as CMU was able to force several handling errors in the post, which kept Toure from devastating the shorthanded Chippewas.
In the second half, the Chippewas shooting slowed and the Eagles were able to consistently get the ball to Toure, who proved unstoppable once the ball was entered successfully to the paint. Binelli’s shooting cooled, but Eagle guard, Ty Groce, began attacking the rim with effective slashing drives that gave EMU a one-two punch in the paint.
CMU was not out of things, and the fans at McGuirk were treated to a familiar sight, namely senior forward David DiLeo going off on a three point barrage that pulled the Chippewas within three with seconds left in the game. Eastern missed some big free throws down the stretch, which exposes the one element of their game that suffers and gave the Chippewas one final shot to tie the game on a last second shot, which just missed.
The Chippewas will look to regroup on Friday against visiting conference leader, Akron, and hope to have Morgan back in the lineup as they try to slay the Zips. Eastern Michigan will face their in-state rival of the week, Western Michigan, at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti this Saturday.