From day one, Eastern Michigan University coach Rob Murphy has put an emphasis on winning games with defense.
Tuesday night was a shining example as EMU gave up a season-low 37 points to Western Michigan University, despite Karrington Ward and Glenn Bryant having off-nights as they combined for 12 points.
“When you don’t get any production from Karrington and (Glenn), it speaks volumes as a team moving forward and shows how important it is for us to stay consistent on the defensive end,” Murphy said.
EMU’s 56-37 victory at the Convocation Center moves them to 10-6 overall and 2-1 in the Mid-American Conference, while WMU falls to 9-6 and 2-1 in the MAC.
Raven Lee was benched in favor of Darell Combs and made the most of his opportunity scoring 14 on 4-of-9 shooting, 2-for-6 from three-point range, and 4-of-6 at the foul line.
Combs described his confidence in a word most people would never think of.
“Yes,” Combs said in a calm and cool demeanor. Murphy followed with a smile on his face, “No question, a different player (when he starts).”
Mike Talley scored in double figures for the fifth time in his last seven games with 14.
Western’s David Brown led all scorers with 18, but was assessed a Flagrant 2 with 1:28 left in regulation and was ejected from the game for throwing Karrington Ward to the ground while going for a layup.
Brown’s two three-point makes highlighted an early 8-3 start for the Broncos.
The Eagles would respond by going on a 19-2 run to go ahead 24-10 with eight minutes left in the first half.
The lead would stay in double figures for the rest of the half as Raven Lee’s three-pointer in the final seconds put EMU up 32-14 after 20 minutes.
Things appeared to be well in hand for the Eagles in the second half as the zone caused problems for WMU’s offense as they were unable to attack on the low-post.
Bryant’s floater increased EMU’s lead to 34-14 to start the second half.
As the half progressed, the Eagles hit a six-minute stretch where they were unable to hit a basket and the Broncos were able to cut the deficit to nine points with 5:32 remaining in regulation.
The Broncos would get no closer as the Eagles pulled away in the final minutes for a 19-point win over their in-state rival.
Murphy announced in the postgame press conference that Combs will be the starting shooting guard going forward because of Lee’s inconsistent defense in the last two weeks.
Redshirt senior J.R. Sims (Academic Issue) sat out Tuesday’s game and according to Murphy, there is no timetable for a return, but emphasized that the outlook is positive.
Western’s 37 points was the second-lowest offensive output of the season.
On Jan. 18, EMU will travel to Mount Pleasant to face-off against in-state rival Central Michigan University at McGuirk Arena.
CMU is 7-7 overall and 0-2 in the MAC.
Chris Fowler is Central’s leading scorer (17.2 points per game).
In the Chippewas’ 86-71 loss to the University of Toledo on Jan. 11, Fowler scored a game-high 21 on 8-of-13 shooting and 5-for-8 from the foul line.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. as Chad Bush and Sean Hostetter will have the call on WMEU 89.1 FM.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.