Behind a balanced attack with four players scoring in double figures, including junior Desyree Thomas’ career-high scoring, the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team completed its season sweep of the Western Michigan Broncos, 73-69, Saturday at the Convocation Center.
Thomas finished one assist shy of a double-double, scoring 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field, to go along with 5-of-6 from the free-throw line and nine assists.
“One thing about Desyree is that she has come into her own, especially in the second half of the season,” EMU coach Tory Verdi said. “She has always wanted to advance the ball up the floor and get her teammates involved, but now we have asked her to be more productive offensively. We are now running plays in which she can create [shot opportunities] on her own and make them.”
EMU moves to 7-19 overall and 5-8 in the Mid-American Conference while Western Michigan falls to 9-17 and 5-8 in the MAC.
Junior Natachia Watkins finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 13 on 4-of-12 from the field and nine boards.
Freshman Bianca Cage returned to form by scoring 14 on 5-of-9 from the field to go along with 3-of-5 from three-point range.
Cage’s 14 is her first game in double figures since the University of Ohio matchup Feb. 9 when she scored 16.
Senior India Hairston, who has been the only Eagles player to start all 26 games this season, scored 10 and grabbed five rebounds in 24 minutes.
Junior Sara Stone recorded eight points, five steals and four rebounds in 25 minutes.
For Western Michigan, the underclassmen carried the load as sophomore Michelle O’Brien scored a game-high 21 on 8-of-14 from the field and 5-of-9 from three-point range.
Freshman Jessica Jessing finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 13 on 5-of-9 from the field and nine rebounds.
Sophomore Marquisha Harris had 13 on 6-of-11 from the field and six rebounds in 29 minutes.
Stone scored the first points of the game for the Eagles on a jump shot.
With EMU up 13-10, Cage left off from her 25-point performance in the last meeting against Western with back-to-back three-pointers and a split from the free-throw line to cap off a 7-2 run.
The Eagles managed to control the tempo and never relinquished the lead in the entire first half, going into the locker room up 37-34.
In the second half, the Eagles kept the momentum going by scoring the first 11 points.
Up 55-43, the Eagles allowed the Broncos to go on a 15-2 run and wound up trailing for the first time in the game.
Both teams exchanged leads back and forth in the late stages of the second half.
EMU’s turning point was at 61-59, when senior Taylor Bird missed two free throws, but Stone managed to force a jump ball on a rebound attempt and the possession stood with the Eagles.
On the ensuing play, Stone converted a layup off the inbounds pass to tie the game at 61-61.
On the next possession, Thomas missed on a layup attempt, but had the instinct to grab her own rebound and make it the second time around to put her team ahead by two.
“When I shot the ball, it came off wide and I said to myself, ‘Go and get it,’” Thomas said. “I was going to go wide to get the ball but it happened to fall in my hands, so I laid it back in.”
The Eagles pulled away and Bird made her first two points of the game from the foul line with 36 seconds left in regulation.
Despite a late flurry from the Broncos, the Eagles hung on in the end and the home crowd left on a high note.
The attendance for this game was 992.
Thirteen of Thomas’ 15 points came in the second half.
The Eagles will look to build on the win by traveling to Dekalb, Ill., to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies on Thursday.
Northern Illinois is 7-19 and 2-11 in the MAC this season.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game can be heard on WEMU 89.1 FM.