Women suffer early exit from MAC tournament with 80-72 loss to WMU

Desyree Thomas (11) finished Saturday’s 80-72 loss to WMU with 19 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds. Thomas was one rebound shy of the triple-double.

Despite junior Desyree Thomas coming up one rebound short of her first career triple-double, the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team’s season came to an end courtesy of the Western Michigan University Broncos, 80-72 in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at the Convocation Center.

EMU finishes the season at 8-22 and 6-10 in the MAC, while Western Michigan moves to 11-19 and 6-10 in the MAC.

Thomas finished with a career-high in scoring with 19 points, on 8-of-11 from the field, to go along with ten assists, nine rebounds, and five steals.

“[Desyree] was our catalyst,” EMU coach Tory Verdi said. “It started with her on the defensive end and offensive ends and it was great to see.”

Junior Natachia Watkins also scored 19, on 8-of-17 from the field and grabbed six boards to go along with a career-high six steals.

In her final game as an Eagle, senior Taylor Bird finished with a career-high 12 points in 28 minutes.

Foul trouble plagued senior India Hairston throughout the game as she scored six points in 12 minutes and fouled out with 4:10 to go in the second half.

In the previous two games against Western, freshman Bianca Cage scored 39 combined points, but was limited to two points, on 1-of-7 from the field in 20 minutes on Saturday.

“When you’re a freshman, sometimes you have your peaks and valleys,” Verdi said. “[Cage’s] shot selection was definitely questionable, but the bottom line was that we were out hustled today.”

For the Broncos, freshman Miracle Woods had a double-double, with a career-high 29, on 12-of-17 from the field and grabbed ten rebounds.

Sophomore Julia Henson scored 21, on 7-of-12 from three-point range in 38 minutes.

Junior Corie Buchanan scored 14 points and grabbed seven boards in 29 minutes.

Thomas intercepted a cross-court pass from Broncos sophomore A.J. Johnson and dribbled down the middle of the court to score the Eagles’ first two points of the game.

In a 16-second stretch, Hairston picked up two fouls and at 11:30 of the first half, she was sent to the bench and senior Chelsea Hite had to re-enter the game to keep her from picking up any more fouls.

Down 17-8, EMU went on an 8-0 run highlighted by two layups by Thomas.

The run would be the closest the Eagles would get to taking the lead as the Broncos expanded their margin to as many as 13 points, 39-26 at the half.

In the second half, Hairston picked up her fourth foul at the 16:12 mark and was forced to sit again for a while as Hite came back into the game.

EMU managed to pull within six, at 51-45, but Henson’s timely three-point shooting was too much for the Eagles to overcome and Hairston fouling out with 4:10 left in the game was the final nail in the coffin.

Game Notes:

The attendance was 1,059.

Watkins finishes the season as the team’s leading scorer at 10.3 points per game.

Thomas led the team in assists with an average of 4.5 per game.
Hairston averaged 6.2 rebounds per game, which is a team-high for the season.

Despite losing to the Broncos, the Eagles won two out of the three meetings between the two teams this season.

Looking Ahead:

Eight players who were a part of this year’s active roster, including junior Olivia Fouty, who was lost for the season back in December with a knee injury and sophomore Amber Bogard, who was lost for the season in January with an arm injury, will return next season.

“I am excited for next season because we have a lot of talent coming in and a lot of components coming back,” Verdi said. “Natachia [Watkins] was at 65 percent this year and once we get Olivia back to full strength, we will have a bright future.”

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