The Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team snapped a five-game losing streak on Feb. 6 by beating Kent State University 65-57.
Natachia Watkins led EMU with 13 points (11 in the second half) and 11 rebounds. Sara Stone and Cha Sweeney chipped in with 12 points apiece.
EMU moves to 13-8 overall and 3-7 in the Mid-American Conference. Head coach Tory Verdi spoke after the game about the losing streak and how they approached the game.
“It’s hard to figure out how to get back to where you were,” Verdi said. “We’ve been searching for a little bit. I think tonight Sara Stone was terrific; defensively she did a great job clogging up the middle and getting around defensively.
On a night where star freshmen Janay Morton and Cha Sweeney struggled and combined for 6-of-25 shooting, 4-for-13 from three, and 5-of-6 from the line, the Eagles’ bench stepped up.
The bench scored 29 points. During the five-game losing streak, the bench averaged 9.2 points per game.
Sweeney remained aggressive throughout the game and managed to attempt all six of the aforementioned free throws.
Verdi also sung the praises of backup forward Shannise Heady and credited her for their success in the second half going with bigger lineups and putting her at the top of EMU’s zone defense.
“Defensively, she was huge for us,” Verdi said. “She had 10 minutes and they were a great ten minutes.”
EMU scored 14 fast break points compared to Kent State’s two. Verdi says that he stresses pushing the pace in every game.
“Our whole offensive philosophy is to push and attack the defense,” Verdi said. “Throughout the game, we want to get deflections and steals and we want to go. We don’t want to be a half court team that walks the ball up the floor and sit in the half court and run stuff. We are at our best when we get deflections, steals, and defensive rebounds and we run and we score.”
Verdi is happy EMU attempted 21 more shots than Kent State, but notes that his team needs to make the open shots.
The Eagles finished with the same amount of makes from the field with 22; however they attempted five more free throws.
The game opened on an 8-2 run for EMU into the first media timeout, but Kent State quickly responded with a 9-0 run immediately after that. The rest of the first half remained close and at the half, EMU led 32-29.
The second half was close at first and Kent State led by one with 11:31 left in the game.
The Eagles proceeded to go on at 13-0 run over the next 5:27 and never looked back.
The run was fueled by a foul from Amber Dunlap, who then picked up another one and a technical to put Watkins on the free throw line four times. Dunlap fouled out of the game with 6:28 left in the game with Kent down 11.
Kent State never got within six points the rest of the way.
EMU won the battle of the offensive glass 16-4. The work on the offensive glass, led by Watkins with five, along with the turnover differential 24-14 in favor in EMU, helped them overcome its bad shooting performance.
EMU shot 22-for-65 from the field (33.8 percent), while Kent State made 22-of-44 (50 percent).
“When we score 32 points or more off of second chance opportunities and points off turnovers, we win games,” Verdi said, “And tonight we had 40.”
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