The Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team is 18-6 and 8-4 in the Mid-American Conference.
With a young team led by sophomore Tavelyn James, who after two seasons is closing on the 1,000- point mark, and third-year coach AnneMarie Gilbert, the Eagles are gearing up for the postseason.
“It’s a five-game season, this is our prep for the postseason,” Gilbert said referring to the last five games on the schedule, which started with a win at Ball State on Feb. 13. The next game is Saturday at Central Michigan.
Gilbert plans to have her players working on what she believes will be the key to winning in the postseason.
“We’re really trying to improve our defense and rebounding,” Gilbert said.
The team allowed Miami freshman Kirsten Olowinski to grab 18 rebounds in last week’s 79-63 loss to the RedHawks.
“We were very distracted prior to that game,” Gilbert said, referring to the distractions as “nothing major” and “off the court-issues that put the team in a challenging position.”
Quick to shake off the loss, Gilbert quickly told the team to think about the “next game,” which is the Eagles’ way of making sure they have short memories after a loss.
After the Eagles complete the regular season, it’s on to the MAC Tournament.
“Post-season play is what Division One basketball is all about,” Gilbert said.
Due to the success the Eagles have had in the regular season, Gilbert has set the bar just as high in the postseason.
“Success means winning the MAC Tournament,” Gilbert said.
Should the Eagles win the MAC tournament, Eastern Michigan will get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and a chance to compete for the NCAA championship.
If not, Gilbert said the National Invitation Tournament has had lots of interest in the Eagles and they would most likely be going to play in the NIT.
Thomas brings toughness, rebounding
Kristin Thomas, a junior college transfer from Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla., has provided the Eagles with a certain dimension down low many teams covet.
“She’s one of the hardest working kids we have,” Gilbert said of the junior. “That’s why we recruited her. To defend and to rebound and she’s been steady for us in both those areas.”
Thomas is fifth in the MAC in rebounding (7.9) and blocked shots (1.3), plus is 14th in steals (1.7).
“I guess just wanting it,” Thomas said of her rebounding ability. “Wanting the rebound, going after it. I use my athletic ability to jump and get around when the other team is trying to box us out. It’s just heart really. You’ve got to want it.”
As far as blocking shots goes, Thomas, a 6-foot forward, thinks that’s more instinctual.
“You’ve gotta time it right,” she said. “I just have always been a shot blocker. It’s just something that comes natural to me.
James has been impressed with Thomas’ toughness and tenacity down low.
“She’s a monster,” James said. “It’s like I always think she’s going to get every rebound.”
Added Gilbert: “She’s just a really unselfish kid, a good student who has high expectations for herself. She raises the bar for herself.”