For the No. 12 seeded Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team and senior guard Tavelyn James, the shots just wouldn’t fall.
But ultimately, the Eagles would.
EMU (23-9) lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to the University of South Carolina Gamecocks (24-9, No. 25 AP) 80-48 on Saturday at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
The normally stout offense of EMU was held to just 48 points, the second-lowest point total for the Eagles this season. The Eagles shot 16-for-60 (.267).
“We missed a lot of easy baskets inside,” Coach AnnMarie Gilbert said. “They’ve got to make those baskets in order to free Tavelyn up a little bit. We didn’t make those and Tavelyn didn’t make hers on the outside, which makes for a terrible combination.”
James finished the game and her Eagle career with 2-for-17 shooting (.118) as she scored 11 points.
“Shots weren’t falling today,” James said. “It wasn’t like we didn’t get any shots up, we just couldn’t hit them.”
Part of that was the intense and aggressive defense the Gamecocks played throughout the game. Physical play on James was the game plan for the Gamecocks, as well as, putting pressure on sophomore point guard Desyree Thomas.
“(James) was a highlight of ours,” but we also highlight the point guard,” said South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley. “We feel like the point guard is the key to engineering their offense and their defense.”
The Eagles started the game hot and forced eight South Carolina turnovers in the first 8:58 of play. The Eagles raced out to a 14-8 lead before the Gamecock offense exploded for a 31-9 run to end the half leading 39-23.
The tough defense and high-percentage offense would continue in the second half for South Carolina as they never looked back, finishing the game scoring a season-high 80 points.
The Eagles were the 14th team the Gamecocks held to under 50 points during the season.
The strong defense was the story of the game, holding James to her second-lowest point total of the season.
The senior capped off her Eagle career with the loss, but the 5-foot-7-inch guard finished her career with 2,461 points.
Senior forward Paige Redditt also made her way into the record books in the loss. The senior scored the last six EMU points and with 25 seconds remaining, she made a layup for her 1,001st point as an Eagle.
Eastern Michigan finished the season 23-9 and competed in the programs second-ever NCAA Tournament. The team also finished 13-3 in Mid-American Conference play, the second-highest win total for the program in conference play.
“I want to see the program do the same exact thing that we’ve done this year,” James said. “As long as this team plays hard and plays as Eastern, they’ll make it.”