Rebounding could decide if EMU can hang with Kentucky
Being outrebounded 84-60 in the last two games is something Eastern Michigan University coach Rob Murphy won’t tolerate and knows in order to have a chance of knocking off the No. 3-ranked University of Kentucky Wildcats tomorrow, centers Da’Shonte Riley and Lekan Ajayi have to be more active in the rebounding department.
“We go for shot fakes (and) don’t stay on our feet,” Murphy said after Saturday’s game against the University of Texas at Arlington. “Da’Shonte and Lekan at that position has to do a better job of being patient.”
In order for things to change, EMU will encounter a Kentucky team that has outrebounded its last two opponents 88-69.
On the season, Kentucky ranks seventh in Division I with 47.8 rebounds per game, compared to EMU’s 36.6, tied for 174th.
Despite the unblemished record and the quality of players that transferred or were recruited, Murphy understands things must improve on the rebounding front with the meat of their schedule on the horizon.
“We have guys that can play on the level (of the major schools) and that is why we have that type of schedule,” Murphy said.
The Eagles showed its depth last Saturday as Ray Lee came off the bench against UTA to score a career-high 38 points on the way to a 74-69 win.
Karrington Ward, who is the team’s leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, shot 4-for-13 and 2-for-2 from the foul line had 11 points against UTA.
For Ward to have a quiet performance and Lee pick up the slack shows that more than one player any can cause problems for Kentucky in terms of targeting a certain player to focus on.
“The depth this team has (Lee, Ward, Bryant, Talley) and if they all play (well) at once, they could surprise (Kentucky),” Eagle Totem blogger Jeremy Rosenberg said on Monday’s Eastern Echo Sports Podcast.
Kentucky (5-1) comes into the game after escaping with a 68-61 win at home against Cleveland State University last night.
For most of the game, the Wildcats looked lethargic until a 24-7 run spearheaded by guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison’s three-point makes in the last 7:41 of regulation clinched the win.
The Harrison twins, along with Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee and James Young are a part of coach John Calipari’s highly touted freshman class, who have been picked by many in the media as the favorites to win this season’s national championship.
Randle is the catalyst of the offense and leads the team in the points and rebounds category averaging 19.8 points per game and 13.8 rebounds per game.
This will be the second all-time meeting between the Eagles and Wildcats.
On Jan. 2, Kentucky manhandled EMU 90-38 as they struggled all game long on offense shooting 15-of-62 (.241) overall.
Forward Glenn Bryant will play against Kentucky after missing the UTA game with an ankle injury he suffered at practice the day prior.
Guard Mike Talley is also expected to play despite a nagging foot injury that has limited his minutes to an average of 17 in the last two games, compared to 23.3 in the previous three contests.
How To Watch/Listen:
Tip-off starts at 4 p.m. and can be seen on Fox Sports South, online on WatchESPN and heard on WEMU 89.1 FM with Chad Bush and Sean Hostetter on the call.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.