Defense key in EMU win over Boilermakers

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In front of 1,790 fans, the Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball team earned the biggest win of coach Rob Murphy’s era thus far, defeating the Purdue Boilermakers 47-44 Saturday at the Convocation Center.

Things did not start out smoothly for the Eagles as they gave up the first seven points of the game. EMU did not score a basket until around the 16-minute mark, when redshirt junior J.R. Sims hit a jumper in the paint.

Points were hard to come by in the first half as poor shooting hampered both teams. EMU shot 9 of 33 from the field, while Purdue shot 6 of 24.

Despite poor shooting, Purdue managed to go up by as many as nine points in the first half, but EMU kept it close.

EMU’s 2-3 zone defense, which suffocated the Boilermakers’ three-point and low-post game, made every possession competitive.

The Eagles’ defensive pressure kept them in the game long enough to put together a 9-0 run on the Boilermakers that stretched from the end of the first half to the first minute of the second half, giving them a 22-20 lead.

As the second half went on, the Eagles began to hit three-point shots and execute in their half-court sets.

With 8:27 left in the second half, EMU’s lead expanded to 10 points (44-34) on redshirt junior Daylen Harrison’s jumper.

The Boilermakers mounted their comeback attempt down the stretch, but EMU managed to hang on at the end, despite senior Jamell Harris missing both free throws with just seconds left in the game.

The Eagles won despite being outrebounded by the Boilermakers 51 to 33.

EMU forced 18 Purdue turnovers, while Purdue only managed to force EMU to turn the ball over five times. The Eagles outscored Purdue 12-1 in points from turnovers.

It was a family affair for the Eagles as no player scored in double figures, but more importantly everyone on the team, from the starters to the bench players, chipped in.

“It was all about our defense,” Murphy said. “We didn’t have a double-figure scorer, but all 10 guys that played were committed to the defensive side of the ball.”

Senior Derek Thompson led the way for EMU with eight points and two assists, while Harrison chipped in with four points and a game-high
11 rebounds.

Senior Matt Balkema scored two points and four rebounds, but his effort making the little plays such as forcing jump balls helped contribute to the win.

“I thought they did a great job together, [Da’Shonte Riley] and Matt as a unit anchoring our defense today,” Murphy said. “I couldn’t ask for a better job from them.”

For the Boilermakers, junior Terone Johnson led the way with 12 points and eight rebounds, while freshmen A.J. Hammons and Ronnie Johnson chipped in with 11 points each. They also had seven and six rebounds, respectively.

Boilermaker senior D.J. Byrd’s shooting troubles continued as he went 0 for 5 from the field with just two points and fouled out with eight seconds left in regulation for Purdue.

As a team, Purdue shot 14 of 47, while EMU shot 17 of 55 for the game.

Saturday’s win against the Boilermakers is EMU’s first win against a Big Ten team since Dec. 17, 1997, when they went to Chrysler Arena in Ann Arbor and knocked off the Michigan Wolverines 89-83 in overtime.

The win is also the Eagles’ first at home against a Big Ten team since Dec. 10, 1994, when they manhandled the Wisconsin Badgers 92-76.

The Eagles will look to keep the momentum going as they travel to Chicago, Ill. to take on the University of Illinois Chicago Flames Dec. 15.

Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. and can be heard on WEMU 89.1.


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