Despite a late effort from redshirt junior forward Glenn Bryant, the Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball team lost to in-state Mid-American Conference Rival Central Michigan University 61-59 in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. Tuesday night.
EMU looked to sweep the season series against the Chippewas after winning the first matchup in Ypsilanti on Jan. 15.
For the Eagles (14-16, 7-8 MAC), senior guard Derek Thompson led the way with 15 points. He shot 5-of-11 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from three-point range in 35 minutes.
“He made good shots and was aggressive,” Associate coach Mike Brown said.
Bryant scored 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting. He also split the two free throws he shot in 35 minutes.
Rounding out the top scoring for EMU was redshirt junior forward Daylen Harrison with 12 points. He shot 5-of-8 from the floor and made two of four attempted three-pointers. He played 31 minutes.
For CMU (11-18, 4-11 MAC), Kyle Randall plowed through the EMU defense with 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting and 6-of-11 from beyond the arc. He played 39 minutes.
Olivier Mbaigoto contributed 14 points in 23 minutes off the bench. He shot 5-of-8 from the floor and went 4-of-6 from the free throw line.
Blake Hibbitts scored 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting and 3-of-8 from long distance. He also made both attempted free throws.
The first half saw EMU quickly fall behind 6-2, with the only Eagles bucket coming on a dunk from Bryant.
EMU head coach Rob Murphy was forced to call a timeout with 17:29 to go in the half after Chris Fowler extended the Chippewa lead to 8-2 on a layup.
On the first possession after the timeout, senior forward Jamell Harris cut into the CMU lead with a layup, making the score 8-4.
The two teams continued to trade baskets until the 7:55 mark of the half. After junior center Da’Shonte Riley made one of two free throws, making the score 15-12 CMU, the Chippewas went on a tear.
CMU went on a 14-2 run before Harrison and Thompson made three-pointers of their own to bring the Eagles back to within six.
Randall made a three-pointer and scored a layup for CMU on consecutive possessions, and Harris finished the half with a dunk for EMU, but the Eagles still trailed 33-24 at the break.
“Our biggest adjustment [going into the second half] was an effort thing,” Brown said. “We wanted to come out with more effort, more intensity.”
Both teams fought back and forth for the majority of the second half.
“All of the guys were good in the second half defensively,” Brown said.
With 3:18 to go, senior center Matt Balkema brought the Eagles to within one point of EMU on a layup.
Fowler answered immediately for CMU with a jumper, making the score 59-56 Chippewas.
On the next possession, Bryant was fouled by CMU with 2:29 to go, but only made one of two free throws.
After Fowler missed a three on the ensuing possession, Bryant came down with the rebound. He got the ball to Harrison, who fed the ball back to him for the dunk and tied the game at 59-59 with 1:49 to go.
Mbaigoto put the game away for CMU with 1:19 to go on a jumper.
Thompson missed a three, which would have given the Eagles the one point lead with just under a minute remaining. Balkema also missed an opportunity to end the game on a turnover with 0:01 left.
EMU finished its road portion of the season having only won two games away from the Convocation Center.
The Eagles return home to finish off the regular season on Saturday, when the team takes on the University of Toledo. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. as the first game of a doubleheader.
Saturday is also Senior Day for the team. Brown said EMU wants to send its three seniors: Thompson, Balkema and Harris out on a positive note.
“It’s a big game,” Brown said.
Game two features the eighth-seed women’s basketball team as it takes on ninth seed Western Michigan University in the first round of the MAC tournament.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter @AlWillmanEcho