The Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball team lost Tuesday night to Northern Illinois University 71-69 at the Convocation Center.
Despite a career-high 31 points from Derek Thompson, the Eagles failed to recover from a 13-point halftime deficit.The Eagles are 4-11 and 1-1 in the Mid-American Conference. NIU is 5-9 and 1-1 in the MAC.
Eastern coach Charles Ramsey said Thompson did a terrific job on the offensive end, but he needs to improve his defense.
“It’s a team game, and we lost,” Ramsey said. “An effort like that, it really goes for naught when you think about it. Derek did a tremendous job, but on the flip side you can’t be a cancel-out player. You can’t score and then get scored on. He had a tremendous night shooting the basketball, but he has to get better on the other end.”
“The worst thing happened to us,” Ramsey said. “We hit four or five 3’s early, and we went jump-shot crazy and forgot about the basketball we have been playing.”
The early lead for the Eagles slipped away as the Huskies finished the first half on a 33-11 run behind 19 first-half points from Xavier Silas. Silas finished the game with 31 points.
Ramsey said the Eagles plan for Silas because they know he is the Huskies’ leading offensive threat.
“Coaches did a good job of preparing us, but we broke those assignments as you can see,” Ramsey said. “The second half we did a much better job, and we cut his production in half.”
In the second half, the Eagles came out from behind by connecting on their first four three-point attempts But the Huskies’ lead was maintained because NIU was hitting three-pointers of its own, keeping EMU at bay.
The Eagles effort to take the ball to the rim helped them get back in the game, and it showed in the statistics.
EMU shot three free throws in the first half compared to 17 in the second. The decision to take the ball inside and get some fouls called got them back to within 58-54 with 9:03 left.
The Eagles would inch closer as two Brandon Bowdry free throws would cut the deficit to 60-62 with 5:55 left, but that’s as close as it would get.
Ramsey said his team’s offensive performance was excellent but didn’t think it played as well as it could have defensively.
“We didn’t get stops when we needed to get stops,” Ramsey said. “We got the lead cut to four then we got it cut to two, but we could never get that stop to get us over the hump.”
Bowdry scored 16 points and had seven rebounds. The Eagles shot 38.5 percent for the game, and the Huskies shot 61 percent.
Thompson’s eighth three-pointer came as time expired. The buzzer-beater three-pointer ties the Convocation Center record for most three-point baskets in one game held by EMU’s Ricky Cottrill from 2001.
The Eagle’s next game takes them to Kalamazoo on Sunday afternoon to take on Western Michigan University (3-11, 0-1 MAC going into Wednesday’s game at Ball State) at 2 p.m.