From bench player to difference maker, freshmen Bianca Cage came on the court in just her fifth career game to score 25 points in 20 minutes and lead the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team to a come from behind 56-52 win against the Western Michigan Broncos Thursday in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Cage scored 25 in the team’s Mid-American Conference opener, shooting 10-of-16 to go along with three steals and was a difference maker from three-point land, going 5-of-10.
“We know that she [Bianca Cage] can get hot,” EMU head coach Tory Verdi said. “She started to heat up a little bit and get some confidence leading to her getting into her zone. It was great to see her knock down those shots because we needed those points for sure.”
Cage’s increased playing time had more to do with senior Taylor Bird not making the trip because of a death in her family, but Bird is expected to rejoin the team against Toledo on Wednesday.
Sophomore Amber Bogard chipped in with eight points to go along with four rebounds and four steals.
Senior India Hairston had a rough shooting night with just four points, shooting just 2-of-11, but managed to claw her way to seven rebounds to round out the high scoring for the Eagles.
For the Broncos (4-10, 0-1 MAC), Marquisha Harris and Aurielle Anderson led the way with 12 points each and Corie Buchanan chipped in with nine points and six rebounds.
Just like last Saturday’s contest against Loyola-Chicago, the Eagles (3-11, 1-0 MAC) got off to a quick start by scoring the first four points of the game on a jumper from Hairston and a fastbreak layup by junior Sara Stone.
Leading 14-11, with 8:08 left in the first half, EMU controlled the tempo until the Broncos went on a 10-0 run that was spearheaded by Buchanan’s layup and two free throws.
Trailing 21-14, the Eagles were forced to a call a 30-second timeout to regain their composure.
Coming out of the timeout, EMU managed to do that by not letting the seven-point deficit increase with a combination of forcing turnovers and slowing the game tempo down to score five of the last seven points in the first half to go into the locker room down 23-19.
Most of the second half turned out to be no different than the end of the first half with both teams exchanging leads and no team being able to fully dictate the pace.
With 1:18 left in regulation and down 50-49, the Eagles were able to finally execute in the clutch, as Cage buried a three-point shot that put them ahead by two, silencing the home crowd in Kalamazoo.
EMU never looked back.
“We did a good job of shooting down the stretch and we have faced so much adversity all year long,” Verdi said. “We have lost so many players due to injury, and all I preach to my team is to go out and play as hard as they possibly can. If you do that, then you will always put yourself in a position to win basketball games.”
EMU snapped a three-game losing skid with this win.
Cage’s 25 points was a complete turn around from the previous game against Loyola-Chicago, where she scored only two points and shot 1-of-7 from the field.
EMU’s two-game road trip concludes Sunday, Jan. 13, when they take on the Central Michigan Chippewas in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Central is 7-7 overall and 1-0 in the MAC. CMU knocked off the Toledo Rockets 73-66 in the conference opener Thursday, Jan. 10.
Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. and can be heard on WEMU 89.1 FM.