DETROIT – Tempers were flaring at Calihan Hall Saturday when Eastern Michigan University matched up against the University of Detroit Mercy, as there was plenty of shouting coming from both benches and even a double technical issued.
Ultimately, EMU couldn’t overcome a lackluster first half, losing to U-D in the cross-town contest, 68-66.
The game stayed close at the start as the teams traded leads and points. Jay Higgins tied the game at 17 with a jumper with 8:15 left in the first.
Detroit (16-13) then went on a 10-0 run after Higgins’ jumper, capped by two free throws by U-D’s Thomas Kennedy.
“I thought our ability to pressure them and deny them on defense disrupted them a bit and helped us to get off to a good start,” U-D coach Ray McCallum said in a post-game news conference.
The Eagles would head to the locker room trailing at the half, 36-27.
“They out-toughed us in the first half,” EMU guard Carlos Medlock said. “And in the second half we decided to play, but it was too late.”
EMU (14-13) chipped away at Detroit’s lead in the second. Medlock made a three pointer with 3:32 left to make it 58-54, U-D.
“We didn’t do a great job the first half because of our mindset, emotions; we weren’t there,” EMU coach Charles Ramsey said. “Second half we kind of got that under control and got ourselves back into it.”
Detroit increased its lead by eight with 1:23 to play with another free throw by Kennedy, but Medlock made another three 20 seconds later making it 65-50, Detroit.
After a steal by Higgins, Medlock was fouled on a shot attempt. He made one-of-two free throws and then missed a layup on the next possession.
“We missed a lot of layups,” Medlock said. “Myself, missed a free throw down the stretch and a layup, and I feel like that’s what lost us the game.”
The Eagles had to foul from that point on, with U-D sealing the victory.
Medlock ended the game with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds.
The missed layups and open looks proved to be part of EMU’s downfall.
“We had some open shots,” EMU coach Charles Ramsey said. “We missed an abundance of layups and open threes. And in games of this magnitude you gotta make those shots. We had opportunities.”
The close proximity of the schools has it labeled as a rivalry game, but Ramsey doesn’t necessarily think the BracketBuster that features U-D is exactly fun to coach.
“Not really, no,” he said. “Not at all. My mindset is on the conference race, then you get a rivalry game thrown right in the middle, because we still have an opportunity – conference wise – and so you get a game like this thrown in, it just throws you off kilter.
“Because what happens is the emotions, everything you’ve been working towards kind of goes out the window in a game like this, and you saw that with Brandon (Bowdry) today. His focus was not where it should be. So, now we have to turn around and regroup and refocus in the next couple days.”
Bowdry was one of the players given the technical foul in the double-technical called in the first. The other was Detroit’s Xavier Keeling.
Bowdry admitted there is a heightened level of intensity in these cross-town games.
“Yeah of course,” he said. “With any rivalry game or intense game like that, I try to show a lot of emotion and intensity so I can get my guys pumped up.”
Even with Bowdry showing increased intensity, the team as a whole, he believed, did not.
“We just didn’t come out with the intensity that we needed to like we did in the previous game against Western,” he said. “We knew it was going to be pretty physical and we didn’t really play like that until the game was almost over.”
After the loss, the team is already directing its attention to its next conference opponent Ball State.
“Well, we’re just looking forward to, you know, going back into the MAC now,” Medlock said. “We’ve got a big game on Wednesday that we’re now focusing on.”
Bowdry added: “I think we’re going to be ready. We’re right where we need to be. We’ve got a lot of confidence coming from everybody, the whole 14, and we’re going to go out there and do everything we can to get the win.”
Tipoff is 7 p.m. at BSU in Muncie, Ind.