While you were out shopping, opening presents and sipping on eggnog, the Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team was hard at work over winter break.
The Eagles went 4-0 between Dec. 11-28 the Eagles’ record advanced to 9-5 on the season.
It all started with a 76-40 win over Canisius to snap a three-game losing streak. Tavelyn James led the Eagles, and all scorers, with 20 points while Sydney Huntley-Rodgers added 11. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Eagles.
“I literally saw this team make a shift,” coach Ann Marie Gilbert said. “It caused us to refocus and examine our intensity, defense and the way we approach two halves of basketball.”
After all of Eastern students put final exams behind them the Eagles returned to the hardwood for a well-anticipated matchup against Temple. The Owls finished their 2009-2010 season with a 25-9 record with one of their wins coming against Eastern. Temple extended their season into the second round of the NCAA tournament and have ten returning players on their 13-player roster.
Cassie Schrock’s 19 points and career-high 16 rebounds led the Eagles to a 65-56 win over the Owls.
Schrock’s rebounding effort was second in Convocation Center history as she marked her 12th career double-double. Her 16 rebounds also tied for the 15th best rebounding effort in the program’s history. The rest of the Eagles’ offense was evenly disbursed as James put up 17 points and Redditt added 14.
The Eagles got off to an early 6-0 lead before the Owls went on an 11-4 run to take a point lead. However the Eagles took a 34-22 lead into the locker room at the half.
“We went into this game with a renewed energy,” Gilbert said.
Temple was able to pull within four points to start the second half, but Eastern bounced back with a 14-2 run, expanding their lead to 14, 50-36 with 10:26 to play. The Owls were unable to overcome the deficit and the Eagles became 1-of-3 Mid American Conference teams to defeat Temple.
“I think it’s the biggest win in the tenure of this staff and one of the biggest for this entire program,” Gilbert said.
Eastern continued its win streak with a 74-54 win over the University of Illinois-Chicago. Leading the way for the Eagles was Schrock with a near double-double as she posted 18 points and eight rebounds. James and Redditt added 14 and 11 points respectively while Kristin Thomas pitched in with ten rebounds on the night.
Schrock went to the free-throw line often in the contest, capping a career-high 77 percent, making 14-of-18 from the charity stripe. With the win, the Eagles advanced to 8-5.
To end the year, Eastern defeated the Niagara Purple Eagles 89-34 in the final contest of their 6-game home stead. The 55-point victory was the fourth-largest margin of victory in Convocation Center history and Niagara’s 34 points were the lowest scored by any NCAA Division I team in Convocation Center history.
Schrock and James led the Eagles with 20 points each, with Schrock adding nine rebounds and seven assists. Huntley Rodgers’ 4-of-9 three-pointers made lifted her to a 16-point effort. Freshman Olivia Fouty grabbed 11 rebounds for EMU. With the win, the Eagles now hold a 9-5 record on the season.
“Our defense is allowing us to hold teams to 56 points, allowing us to rebound and to get to the free-throw line,” Gilbert said. “The positive things about this team are coming back.”
Last season, the Eagles finished their non-conference play with an 11-2 record and went into MAC play on a five-game win streak. Eastern continued its win streak in MAC play, earning two consecutive wins, until they fell at Toledo in a 72-63 decision. The Eagles finished with an 11-5 record in the MAC last season and went on to the second round of the MAC Tournament where they suffered a 46-72 loss to Akron.
This season Eastern’s record, 9-5, coming out of non-conference is an injustice to the work they’ve put in. While they may be a number of wins away from the obvious success they had last season, the Eagles took on a much more challenging schedule this season. Their losses have come to teams like Ohio State, Oregon State and Green Bay (a Horizon League team who went to the NCAA Tournament last season). One the toughest losses for this team came against the University of Detroit Mercy, a game which Gilbert calls “an upset” for the Eagles.
However it was a setback that gave them a new determination and focus, as they came back to begin their 4-game win streak and pull off a win against Temple.
“It was a wake-up call because we knew we should have won,” Gilbert said. “Our motto is now ‘no let downs.’ ”
Going into the 2010-2011 MAC season, the Eagles will have momentum working in their favor as they take on Northern Illinois, who is currently 6-8 and coming off of a loss to Illinois State. The second match of the Eagles’ MAC season will come against Ball State who is 5-8 and coming off of a loss to Duquesne as they enter MAC play.
One thing that Eastern has learned during their non-conference play is not to wait until the second half to play their hardest. They’ve learned to come out in the first half with intensity and take control from the opening tip. If they can keep that focus, this will be a team that makes it through the MAC Tournament undefeated.