The Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team rallied back from a seven-point deficit with 10:09 left to beat Ball State University 62-60 on Sunday.
EMU improves to 15-10 on the season and 5-9 in the Mid-American Conference while Ball State falls to 11-14 overall and 6-8 in the MAC.
Cha Sweeney led the Eagles with 20 points on 8-of-17 from the field, 3-for-8 for three, and 1-of-2 from the free-throw line. Sweeney also contributed six rebounds.
Natachia Watkins and Desyree Thomas both contributed eight points each, along with 12 rebounds and six assists respectively.
Ball State’s Nathalie Fontaine dropped a double-double on EMU with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Shelbie Justice helped out with 13 points for Ball State.
EMU head coach Tory Verdi praised his team for its work on the season and how they fight through the tough times.
“They play hard. We are fighting everything from injuries, shifting line-ups, shifting minutes and the one thing I’ve always said is you can control your effort,” Verdi said. “They give us effort every single night. It may not be perfect, we may miss assignments, but the one thing I know about this group is they continue to play hard for us. And that’s all I want and expect.”
Verdi went on to praise his coaching staff, as well as all the players for their effort. In particular, Verdi was impressed with Sweeney and how she did in the game.
“We brought her here for a reason. We brought Cha Sweeney here because we want to win championships,” Verdi said. “She is all about winning. She is a tough kid, despite her size there is a lot of power to her and it amazes me every single time we step on the floor.”
Sweeney echoed Verdi’s thoughts about a championship for EMU and showed great confidence in her team.
“We have MAC championship potential,” Sweeney said.
EMU started the game hot against Ball State, quickly getting out to an eight-point lead by the first media timeout. The lead eventually ballooned to 11 points with 4:41 left in the first half after a Sweeney layup that led to a Ball State timeout.
After the timeout, Ball State went on a 9-0 run capped by a Justice three pointer. EMU led 36-33 at the half.
After halftime, Eastern’s offense went cold and its once 11-point lead flipped to a seven-point hole.
EMU didn’t back down though despite trailing. The Eagles followed after going down seven went on a 9-0 to retake the lead.
The lead flipped back and forth for the rest of the game and after a layup by Brandy Woody, EMU was only up one with 39 seconds remaining.
Ball State ended up intentionally fouling Sweeney, putting her on the free-throw line for two shots.
Sweeney said after the game about what the pressure felt like and what was going through her head.
“I gotta make these, I can’t let my team down,” Sweeney said. “The last couple of games we had lost in those close times and it could just be that one possession that you need and you couldn’t get it and you wish you could have it back, but it just don’t work like that.”
Sweeney ended up making the first free throw and missing the second.
Ball State had one more chance to tie or to win with a three, but never got the shot off and EMU escaped with the two-point win.
EMU plays again on Feb. 26 against Western Michigan University at University Arena in Kalamazoo. The last time these two teams met was an Eastern 83-77 victory in Ypsilanti on Jan. 15.
Verdi got emotional about his team’s performance and the comeback victory.
“I love these kids; I love what we’re about,” Verdi said. “We’ve faced adversity for quite some time and the fact that they stuck it out and they were tough down the stretch and we never gave up, there is something to be said for it.”