Coach Charles Ramsey said this season’s Eastern Michigan University basketball team has come a long way from last season. And it’s hard not to notice how far it’s come along.
“It’s the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here. I enjoy coming to see them every day,” said Ramsey, who’s in his fifth season.
Simply shooting better is one of the biggest improvements. The Eagles have scored 70 or more in all five of their wins, while scoring 61 and 56 in their two losses.
They scored more than 70 four times last season and went 8-24, and they didn’t record their fifth win until February against Toledo.
It’s safe to say scoring was high on his list of areas needing to improve when recruiting. One the newcomers is junior-college transfer Jay Higgins.
The junior forward has become a legitimate scoring threat in addition to fellow upperclassmen Carlos Medlock, Brandon Bowdry and Justin Dobbins.
Higgins scored a career-high of 25 Monday in a win over Canisius (N.Y.) College. He made five 3-pointers and brought his scoring average to 11 – good enough for fourth on the team.
“That’s why he was recruited,” Ramsey said. “It was good to see him do that.”
Last season’s leading scorer hasn’t lost his touch, either. Bowdry hasn’t scored fewer than 14 and is averaging 19 and 10 rebounds.
The return of Medlock hasn’t hurt, either. He missed last season because of a foot injury and had 32 points Saturday in a win over Davenport.
Medlock is averaging a team-best five assists and was named Mid-American Conference West division player of the week Monday.
“He’s playing like a senior should be playing,” Ramsey said.
Free throws, however, remain a shaky stat. The Eagles shot 61 percent last season and are shooting 66 percent, but Ramsey said he’s encouraged when the team makes them when they really matter – late.
With a 26-point lead withered to 12 on Monday, the Eagles went from the 7:03 mark to 0:55 without a field goal. Rather, they made 9-of-10 free throws and held Canisius to eight points from that point on.
Monday’s win was the third consecutive, which can help the team build confidence heading into Saturday’s road game against No. 15 Ohio State (noon; ESPNU).
“If we play good defense, we can play with anybody,” Higgins said.
EMU returns to the Convocation Center on Dec. 12 against James Madison University.