Eagles prep for Buffalo Bulls

Junior Desyree Thomas is a player to watch.

After defeating the Ohio Bobcats, 64-57, the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team will be looking for its first back-to-back wins of the season as the University at Buffalo Bulls make the trip to the Convocation Center for a cross-divisional showdown Saturday.

Team Records:

EMU comes into the contest at 6-17 and 4-6 in the Mid-American Conference, while Buffalo is 7-16 and 5-5 in the MAC.

Buffalo blown out on the road:

The Bulls lost to the Central Michigan Chippewas, 86-51, Sunday at McGuirk Arena in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Series History:

The Eagles defeated the Bulls in their last meeting, 72-54, at Alumni Arena in Buffalo, N.Y., Jan. 25, 2012.

EMU’s Tavelyn James led all scorers with 34, while Paige Reddit chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Junior point guard Desyree Thomas had nine points and seven assists.

For Buffalo, Christa Baccas scored 18 on 9-of-11 shooting to go along with six rebounds in 23 minutes, and Beth Christensen grabbed
11 rebounds in 26 minutes.

Players To Watch Out For:

Freshman shooting guard Bianca Cage, who has seen an increase in playing time since Miranda Tate’s dismissal Jan. 2, currently leads the Eagles in scoring with 10.1 points per game and is shooting 31.6 percent from three-point range.

Cage has rebounded from her scoreless game against Ball State with back-to-back games in double figures: 11 against Akron and 16 versus the Ohio Bobcats.

In the last two games, Cage has shot 7-of-15 (46.6 percent) from three-point range, which she will need to continue shooting at (or better than) if the Eagles want to have a shot at beating the Bulls.

Junior guard and forward Natachia Watkins is averaging 10 PPG in 28.7 minutes per game. Watkins has started in 19 of the team’s 23 games this season.

Senior center India Hairston is averaging 9 PPG and a team-leading 6.4 RPG in 30.2 MPG.

Hairston has seen an uptick in scoring in the last two games, tying a season-high 18 at Akron and 12 versus Ohio, and will be relied on along with senior Chelsea Hite to continue to establish their dominance in the frontcourt.

In terms of field goal percentage, Hairston has shot 14-of-25 (56 percent) in her last two games, which is higher than her season average of 44.2 percent.

Thomas is the main facilitator of the offense: She is averaging 5.3 PPG and 4.4 assists per game.

In the last three games, Thomas has found her groove offensively, averaging 12.3 PPG and 5.6 APG.

Buffalo’s main weapon is junior forward Cherridy Thornton, who is averaging 11.8 PPG and shooting 35.6 percent from the field.

Thornton scored 22 points, on 7-of-23 and 6-of-7 from the foul line, in 39 minutes against CMU on Sunday.

Another key factor for the Bulls is freshman forward Mackenzie Loesing, who is averaging 10.4 PPG and shooting 36.4 percent from the field.

Loesing scored eight points, on 3-of-8 shooting, against the Chippewas.

The third key factor for Buffalo is Baccas. She is averaging 7.3 PPG and leads the team in rebounding with 8.5 RPG.

Baccas scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds against the Chippewas.

Game Information:

Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

The game will be carried live on WEMU 89.1 FM and the results can be found online at www.easternecho.com/sports Saturday night.

Looking Ahead:

The Eagles will travel to Muncie, Ind., Feb. 20 to take on the Ball State University Cardinals.

The Eagles are looking to split the season series with the Cardinals after losing 56-41 on Feb. 3.

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