Despite junior Natachia Watkins putting up her second double-double of the season with 14 points and 15 rebounds, it was not enough as the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team lost to the University of Akron Zips with 0.07 seconds left, 82-81, at James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron, Ohio.
“Natachia [Watkins] had a big game tonight and her rebounds helped us get most of our points,” said EMU head coach Tory Verdi.
The loss drops EMU to 5-17 and 3-6 in the Mid-American Conference, while Akron moves to 15-7 and 6-3 in the MAC.
Eagles junior Desyree Thomas scored a career-high 14, on 7-of-14 shooting and seven assists in 33 minutes.
In 28 minutes, senior India Hairston scored 18, on 8-of-15 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds.
Freshman Bianca Cage bounced back from her scoreless performance against Ball State University by scoring 11, on 4-of-7 shooting and dished out a career-high four assists to round out the Eagles’ main scoring.
“Bianca knocking down those critical threes in the second half gave everyone confidence and helped us dig down not only on offense, but on defense,” Verdi said.
For Akron, junior Carly Young scored a game-high 23, on 9-of-10 shooting, in 18 minutes. Redshirt junior Rachel Tecca added 20, on 7-of-11 shooting, in 29 minutes.
In 37 minutes, senior Taylor Ruper scored 11 points and dished out four assists. Junior Hanna Luburgh scored 11, on 5-of-13, in 37 minutes to round out the Zips’ main scoring.
The Eagles outrebounded the Zips 41-24, which is three less than their last game against Ball State (45-44).
Points off turnovers were key for EMU as the team scored 23, compared to Akron’s eight.
Second chance points favored the Eagles over the Zips 23-8.
After a three-point make by Luburgh to start the game’s scoring, Watkins countered with a layup to put EMU on the scoreboard.
The Zips maintained control for most of the first half as their lead grew to as many as 12 points.
EMU closed the first half on a 12-4 run as they went into the locker room down 44-40.
Akron continued to control the pace of the game for the majority of the second half until EMU, down 70-65, went on an 8-0 run highlighted by Cage’s two three-point makes forcing the Zips to call timeout.
With 4:34 left in the game and up three, EMU appeared to have the game in hand. But with less than a minute left and EMU up by only one, 79-78, junior Sara Stone turned the ball over and Ruper was fouled.
Ruper made both of her free throws as the Zips went up by one, with 11 seconds left to play. Thomas then responded with a quick layup to put the Eagles back up by one, with 2.7 seconds left.
Thomas knocked the ball out of bounds giving Akron a pass from half-court as opposed to full-court. Young inbounded the ball and found Tecca, as she made the game-winning layup with 0.7 seconds left.
EMU attempted a last-second full-court inbound pass, but was broken up at mid-court and once again the team was denied victory.
“Unfortunately, we made a couple of mistakes in the end, but we will work on it and hope to become a better team through this experience,” Verdi said.
The Eagles set a season high in points with 81.
EMU’s loss to Akron is the first in the last three games between the teams.
Sophomore Amber Bogard sat out her fourth straight game with an undisclosed arm injury.
Thomas has scored 26 points in the last two games for EMU.
EMU will look to break away from back to back losses by returning home to play the University of Ohio Bobcats Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Convocation Center.
Ohio is 5-16 and 0-9 in the MAC. The Bobcats fell to the Northern Illinois University Huskies, 73-52, on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
A player to watch for the Bobcats is freshman Kiyanna Black. She has scored 12 PPG and leads the team in field goals made with 4.8 PPG.
The Eagles will wear pink jerseys in support of the fundraising program “Play 4 Kay.” The program is named after the late and former North Carolina State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow, who died of cancer Jan. 24, 2009. Any fan who wears pink to the game will get free admission.
The game starts at Noon and can be heard on WEMU 89.1 FM.
Follow me on Twitter @EasternEchoGeno.
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