The Eastern Michigan Eagles asserted themselves against the visiting Western Michigan Broncos from the opening tip and did not look back in their second in-state rivalry game of the week.
A crowd gathered to support the home team on “Super Hero Day” chalked full of Super Heroes greeting children in the stands and fun games of “Simon Says” at halftime.
The superheroes weren’t the only ones wearing capes on Saturday, as visitors were treated to their very own Eastern Michigan Capes and high flying acrobatics from the EMU men that provided scores of dunks all afternoon.
Eastern Michigan got an early jump on the Broncos and things never really felt close. The Eagles showed that they have a player for every occasion. EMU is one of the most balanced teams in conference and show flashes of success that may surprise opponents this post-season. Italian guard Thomas Binelli is a deep threat sharp shooter, Ty Groce, Noah Morgan and Yeikson Montero provide pressure with agile dribble drives, Senegalese 7-foot center Boubacar Toure locks down the lane in EMU’s vaunted zone defense and demands double coverage in the paint on offense, and Darion Spottsville runs the entire show at point guard. The Eagles quite literally have every angle covered when things are clicking.
On the opposite end, Western’s young squad seemed to struggle in the particular matchups that EMU forced them into during the showdown. The lone bright spot for the Broncos on Saturday came in the first minutes when junior guard, Michael Flowers, netted his 1000th point on a deep three.
However, things never really got going at a pace necessary for the Broncos to bridge the gap and EMU ran away to a big 69-51 home victory.
The Eagles improve to 14-11 (4-8) and the Broncos fall to 11-14 (4-8) in a wide open Mid-American Conference. The Broncos face a tough opponent in conference-leading Akron and the Eagles challenge Kent State in their next matchups.
The opening game for Eastern Michigan’s “Super Hero” Day did not disappoint. Fans sat side by side with Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Spider-Man and other super heroes as they cheered on the hometown Eagles taking on Mid-American Conference foe, Akron.
The 12-11 Eagles and 10-12 Zips have both hovered around the .500 mark much of the season and each desperately needed a strong showing in final pushes towards the conference tournament early next month in Cleveland, Ohio.
Akron started strong and EMU fell behind by double digits going into halftime, but a strong performance by junior guard Areanna Combs gave the Eagles and raucous crowd new life in the second half.
The Eagles nearly lost Combs after a nasty fall going up for a rebound where she appeared to hit her head directly on the hardwood as she came down hard. She was able to return, however, after a few minutes and reignite the her team with a big three point play that got everyone off the bench and to their feet.
Unfortunately for the home team, the Eagles began to cool down and struggled to convert lightly contested shots in the paint and some wide open three point attempts. Making matters worse, the Zips caught fire and seemed unable to miss with bucket after bucket coming from Kendall Miller, Haliegh Reinoehl and Vari Caitlin.
The scoring surge extended the Akron lead and the Zips held on for the 64-53 win. The victory marked the second win over EMU in recent weeks, with the prior game going into OT.
Akron improves to 11-12 and EMU drops to 12-12. Akron will next play a struggling Buffalo (13-10) team that started conference play strong, but has lost five straight. Eastern Michigan has a significantly tougher matchup against MAC #2 Ball State (17-7).
Opening their season against cross-state powerhouse, Michigan State, the Eagles found themselves on the nail side of that equation. MSU controlled the game in all but the first period and managed to kick off a huge 13-0 run leading into the half. EMU was eventually handed a 35-point loss: 85-50.
Fast forward three days later and the Eagles were once again taking the hardwood, this time against Division III Olivet College in the friendly confines of the Convocation Center of Ypsilanti, MI.
We made the trip to the east side of the state to cover two local freshman, Hannah Brown (White Cloud ’19) and Zara Webber (Kent City ’19) kicking off their college careers together for the Comets.
The game tipped off to the screams of 2,500 area school children as part of EMU’s Education Day promotion, which gave local kids a day of college basketball, t-shirt canons, spirited cheering and Jumbotron dance-offs. The gym was electric with youthful exubrance well before tipoff and continued for much of the afternoon. The noise factor was often more reminiscent of a post-season matchup in the NCAA tournament, than an early Friday afternoon contest in November, but made for an incredible atmosphere for all in attendance.
Eastern Michigan quickly looked prepared to dominate the game through its size, where they maintained a clear advantage from wings to paint, as the teams tipped off. EMU Junior center Autumn Hudson dominated the glass early with several offensive rebound-put backs, which set the tone for the Eagles and gave them a 4-0 lead.
Olivet was prepared to make things a battle early, however, and OC freshman guard, Hannah Brown, knocked down a pair of back-to-back three point buckets that dropped straight to the bottom of the net. The second bucket gave Olivet its first and only lead of the contest at 6-4. That early showing would not last however and the Eagles closed the first quarter over the Comets with a score of 23-8.
The Comets would get it as close as 12 with 9-minutes to go in the second period, but EMU created additional space between the squads on the scoreboard by shrinking the court through their size and speed by bringing added pressure on a 3/4 court press, which helped them close the half with a 26 point lead.
The combination of size and strength in the paint and on the wings proved to be too much again after the break. The Eagles got things going right away as the relentless EMU defensive pressure began to wear down the Comets and the ladies from Olivet would only manage to score 6 points to the Eagles’ 27 in the third period.
The fourth quarter would be much of the same for both squads. The Comets mounted a fourth quarter effort that got them into double digits for the period, but were simply unable to get momentum going on either side of the court, as had been the case all afternoon. EMU’s continuous flood of size and strength off the bench kept the Eagles fresh and ready to put Tuesday behind them.
The waves of substitutions gave the Eagles a well-rounded offensive and defensive attack that led all eleven players to score during the contest and five to do so in double digits.
Some night’s you’re the hammer and others you are the nail. It definitely felt better this Friday for the Eagles to play the role of the former. Both teams will be matching up against foes from Ohio with the Eagles facing off on the road against Youngstown State and the Comets hoping to regroup in their first non-exhibition competition and home opener against Defiance College.
Rebounding: EMU – Autumn Hudson (12) Courtnie Lewis (9) OC – Fayth Talbert (5) DeeDee Post (4) Scoring: EMU – Courtnie Lewis (15) Kiara Johnson (13) OC – Hannah Brown (9) Amari Brown (6) Assists: EMU – Jenna Annecchiarico (6) Corrione Cardwell (6) OC – Tammy Lee (4) Amari Brown (3)