Coach Rob Murphy felt like Eastern Michigan University let one slip away against No. 21-ranked University of Massachusetts Minutemen in front of 1,314 fans at the Convocation Center Tuesday night.
“I thought we were just as good and were the better team for a half,” Murphy said. “This was a winnable game that we should have won. [The possibility of us] being 6-1, to beat a top-25 team in your building would have been phenomenal. Now, we have to go back to the drawing board and see how we take that next step.”
Going 7-of-19 from the foul line did not help EMU in the 69-57 loss.
“If we just made free throws [in the first half], we would be up 12 [or] 13 points to close the half,” Murphy said.
UMass moves to 7-0, while EMU falls to 5-2.
Raven Lee’s struggles on offense continued as he scored two points on 1-of-4 shooting and went 0-of-5 from the free-throw line.
“I don’t know if it is a mental thing or not, but he has to get going in order for us to be successful,” Murphy said.
A bright spot for the Eagles was the stellar play of forward Daylen Harrison as he scored 11 on 5-of-11 shooting and 1-of-3 from long range.
“He’s a glue guy,” Murphy said. “He’s a guy you have on the floor that’s going to a little bit of everything. He did his job tonight.”
Even with UMass center Cady Lalanne’s third straight double-double game with 12 points and 12 rebounds, coach Derek Kellogg felt like he did not dominate as much.
“I’ve seen [Cady] play better and finish a little bit more around the rim,” Kellogg said. “I thought [Riley] affected Cady some on the defensive end. He put his numbers up, but it wasn’t a dominating performance like I have seen [before].”
6’9” forward Raphiael Putney showed his versatility from making baskets on alley-oop passes to handling the ball and taking it to the basket scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Da’Shonte Riley scored the game’s first basket with a fade away jumper from the post.
Both teams then exchanged baskets until EMU decided to play with a smaller lineup at the nine-minute mark to give Riley a brief rest.
The tempo began to accelerate as Chaz Williams’ jumper gave UMass an 18-17 lead. Forward Karrington Ward responded sixteen seconds later with a three-point make to put the Eagles ahead once more with 7:28 left in the first half.
After Putney’s lay-up to even things at 20, EMU would take the lead on Ward’s layup and would not relinquish it for the rest of the half as they went into halftime with a 35-31 lead.
After Harrison’s jumper to start the second half, UMass would go on a 9-3 run to tie the game at 40 with 14:44 left in regulation.
After Jalen Ross’s mid-range jumper to put EMU in front 42-40, Putney’s three-point make off the glass put UMass ahead for the rest of the game and cruised to a 12-point win.
Riley finished with ten points and nine rebounds in a career-high 36 minutes.
Murphy also talked about fans showing up at EMU’s home games in the press conference.
“We have been talking about fans not coming to the games and we had it all tonight,” Murphy said. “You win this game and you continue to capitalize on it by having double what you get tonight. People want to see programs that win basketball games.”
On Dec. 7, the Eagles will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on the Purdue University Boilermakers at Mackey Arena.
In the teams’ last meeting on Dec. 8, 2012, EMU beat Purdue 47-44 in a defensive battle at the Convocation Center.
Derek Thompson led the way for the Eagles with eight points and two assists, while Daylen Harrison chipped in with four points and 11 rebounds.
Terone Johnson led the Boilermakers with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Purdue is 6-2 on the season.
Guard Ronnie Johnson leads Purdue in scoring with 12.8.
Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
You can watch the game on WatchESPN.com or listen to WEMU 89.1 FM where Chad Bush and Sean Hostetter will have the call.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.