The Eastern Michigan men’s basketball team saw its world turned upside-down, right-side up, and then back upside-down again in a buzzer-beating loss to Miami University (Ohio), 58-56, Saturday at the Convocation Center.
EMU players jumped onto the court embracing sophomore guard Derek Thompson after he threw up a prayer that went through the basket as the buzzer ended regulation. The Convocation Center was rocking with fans that stirred excitement after thinking EMU salvaged a victory just seconds after Miami’s Jon Harris drilled a three-pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining in the game.
After officials reviewed the play at the scores table, they determined that Thompson didn’t get the shot off in time, thus ending the game in a loss for the Eagles.
“It was a tough game,” EMU coach Charles Ramsey said. “Our defense broke down. Their kids made shots, and we didn’t.”
Senior Brandon Bowdry led the way with his 35th career double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Redshirt freshman J.R. Sims scored a career high 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field, while Jay Higgins and Thompson added eight points each.
With the loss the Eagles fall to 3-6 in conference play, and 6-16 on the season.
“We played our butts off,” Bowdry said. “They let us have good tempo leading to an early lead, and then they started making buckets. Basketball is a game of trial and error, a game of runs. We’ve got to stop them, we couldn’t. They made a big shot. We made a big play, and then it wasn’t. It shouldn’t have came down to that though.”
Toward the end of the second half, the defensive pressure let up.
Just when the Eagles thought the game was in the bag, the RedHawks rallied back to cut a 20-point deficit that was once held at the 15:00 minute of the second half. Ramsey tried to shorten the game, running the shot-clock down, but turnovers and bad decisions kept the RedHawks in the game.
Along with the letdown of the Eagles defense late in the game, much credit should be given to Harris and the the RedHawks.
“You feel bad, you just feel bad,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said about Saturday’s game. “Eastern had a great game plan, we could never get in synch offensively. They have pretty good athletes. They’re never going to be unmatched. Tonight, Jon Harris saved the game for us.”
EMU started the game holding a 15-7 advantage over the RedHawks to maintain a double-digit lead for most of the first half. The Eagles shot better from the field than Miami — 41 percent from inside the arc and 44 percent beyond the three-point line. Miami had a better assist-to-turnover ratio, 15:11 than EMU’s 14:15, and crashed the boards better with 37 rebounds compared to EMU’s 33.
The Eagles closed out the first half with a 13-point lead, 28-15. The second half started just how EMU left off, led by Bowdry’s scoring and rebounding and the awakening of point guard Sims. The Eagles pulled away in the second half leading the RedHawks at the 15:00 minute 40-20.
A bright spot for the Eagles was how Sims looked Saturday. He looked comfortable on the court. He started and has been seeing his minutes pick up in the last couple of games.
“Tremendous effort,” Bowdry said on behalf of Sims’ performance. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now; a year of experience paid off for him, and he is conducting the team much better. He played very of age; I’m proud of him.”
Eastern’s next game is a MAC contest against Kent State University on Wednesday in Kent, Ohio.