KALAMAZOO – With the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team having such a hot start to the season, coming out flat against Western Michigan University on Saturday was somewhat of a surprise, especially for the team’s leading scorer Tavelyn James.
“We survived,” the sophomore guard said. “It was a little slow for us in the first half, but we picked it up. We always pick it up in the second half.”
The Eagles were down 11-3 to start the game, but outscored WMU the rest of the way en route to a 61-52 victory over their in-state and Mid-American Conference foe.
James, the second leading scorer in the MAC heading into Saturday’s contest (20.4 ppg), started the game going 2-for-9 from the floor for eight points at the half.
“The last few games that has been the story for Tavelyn James,” EMU coach AnnMarie Gilbert said. “She hasn’t quite known how to deal with someone shadowing her every second of the basketball game.”
The next half was a different for the 5-foot-7 guard as she changed her offensive strategy, scoring 10 in the second, going 3-for-6 from the floor and 4-for-5 on free throws.
“I started running in transition,” she said. “I got a lot of easy buckets in transition.”
Coach Gilbert thought James should have started taking the ball to the basket earlier in the game.
“If Tavelyn James had played her first half like she did the second half, it might be a different ball game all together,” she said. “She’s really the only kid on the team I want to force the issue.”
With James starting slow, Gilbert looked to her less heralded players to make an impact, specifically Kristin Thomas, Chenise Miller and Lindsey Mahone. The trio averaged 30 minutes of playing time in total.
“Those three are as good as anybody in the league,” Gilbert said. “And depending on what we need – if we need shooting, if we need rebounding, if we need a few shots blocked, if we need a defensive stance – they’re able to do that.
“We’ve been able, this year, to be deeper than I think any Eastern Michigan team that you can remember for quite some time.”
Thomas was especially effective, as she had a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with her four points.
“She’s a kid who rebounds come naturally for her,” Gilbert said. “She does a great job busting out with rebounds, starting our break, and assisting Cassie Schrock.”
Schrock continued her steady play for the Eagles, leading the team in minutes played (37) while scoring 16.
WMU coach Tasha McDowell reiterated Gilbert’s sentiment on EMU’s depth.
“Eastern Michigan has quite a few threats,” she said. “It wasn’t just a focus on Tavelyn kind of game.”
The WMU coach also talked about EMU’s start, saying she wasn’t surprised.
“They are playing very well, and they’re playing confidently right now,” she said.
“They’ve got a nice team.”
EMU is set to travel to Toledo this Wednesday to take on the University of Toledo at 7 p.m.
“Good players make good coaches look great,” Gilbert said of her team. “And that’s what my basketball team is doing right now.”