Many celebrated the long-awaited beginning of the NHL season Saturday, but before the first puck dropped in North America, there was a Mid-American Conference basketball game to be played. The Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball team defeated the Miami University of Ohio RedHawks 65-58.
The last time the Eagles won against the RedHawks was February 6, 1997 at Bowen Fieldhouse, four months and one day before the Detroit Red Wings hoisted their first Stanley Cup since 1955.
EMU head coach Rob Murphy, while happy with his team’s performance, was open about the team’s play and pointed out it could have been better.
“I think we all played decent, but we need to put two halves together,” Murphy said. “If we could have put the second half like the first, we could have had a great game.”
Junior center Da’Shonte Riley made an impression—while he only scored four points, he added eight rebounds and two steals. He has also improved defensively over the last few games.
“[Riley] did a good job, he was super active, he got his hands up,” Murphy said. “But outside of that he blocked some shots, altered some shots and went up with two hands and got rebounds and was very confident. We were happy with how he played.”
Another player who made an impact for the Eagles (9-9, 2-2 MAC) was redshirt junior guard and forward Daylen Harrison, who scored 10 points in 31 minutes against the RedHawks (7-9, 2-2 MAC).
“He just needed to stay aggressive,” Murphy said. “That’s the Daylen Harrison we expected to play. He was aggressive early; he’s one of our guys and somebody we believe in, we just want him to remain confident and continue to play that way.”
For the RedHawks, Will Felder led the way with 12 points in 28 minutes, with Allen Roberts putting up 11 for Miami in 36 minutes.
Miami got off to a quick 4-0 lead early in the first half. Redshirt junior forward Glenn Bryant’s layup and senior guard Derek Thompson’s three-pointer erased the RedHawk lead and proved to give the Eagles a lead the team would not give up.
Harrison expanded the Eagle lead with a rare three-pointer of his own at the 16:17 mark of the first half. Harrison then made a layup off a Thompson steal to give the Eagles a 10-4 lead with 15:00 left.
Reggie Johnson attempted to jump start a rally for the RedHawks with his three-pointer, but Bryant answered with a dunk for the Eagles, giving EMU a 12-7 lead with 14:00 to go in the half.
The RedHawks were able to get within two points of the Eagles twice for the remainder of the half, but the Eagles went on a tear and closed out the half with a 38-25 lead.
At the break, the Eagles shot 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) from the floor and 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) from three-point range. The team also made one of its two free-throw attempts (50 percent).
The RedHawks, on the other hand, only shot 10-of-23 (43.5 percent) from the floor and 4-of-11 (36.4 percent) from three-point range.
The team made one of the four free throws it attempted (25 percent).
The RedHawks attempted a comeback late in the second half. With 2:38 to go, a jumper from freshman guard Jalen Ross gave the Eagles a 60-53 lead. A layup from Miami’s Felder and a three-pointer from Jon Harris quickly made the score 60-58 with 1:49 left.
Despite the late rally, the Eagles were able to hold their ground and earn their first win over the RedHawks in more than 5,600 days.
The Eagles next take on Western Michigan University Wednesday.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Kalamazoo. The game will be broadcast live on WEMU 89.1 FM.
Related: Photo gallery of game