Eastern Michigan University head coach Rob Murphy always preaches defense first to his players.
Saturday afternoon saw EMU hold the University of Toledo to 44 points— the least given up since playing Western Michigan University on Jan. 14 (37).
“Collectively, all five guys were in tune today,” Murphy said. “For 40 minutes, our guys paid attention to detail and dug in on the defensive side of the ball.”
Hard work paid off in Eastern’s 65-44 win against Toledo in a front of 1,356 fans at the Convocation Center on Saturday.
Mike Talley and Karrington Ward led the way with 13 points each for EMU (15-10, 7-5 Mid-American Conference West).
Talley also dished out three assists and only turned the ball over once.
“(Mike) did a good job with his decision-making,” Murphy said. “Mike is an aggressive guy, he’s always wanted to be a scorer his whole life. Game by game, he’s gotten better in making good decisions.”
Da’Shonte Riley stuffed the stat sheet as he scored six points, eight rebounds and seven blocks in 36 minutes.
“Honestly, I’m more of a defensive player and this works to my advantage,” Riley said. “My main job on defense is to block and contest shots on the defensive end.”
Despite shooting 14-of-54 as a team, Toledo (21-4, 9-3 MAC West) managed to have two scorers in double-figures— Julius Brown and Jonathan Williams with 13 each.
“You’re not going to beat a zone defense shooting 26 percent,” Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk said.
Junior guard Justin Drummond returned after serving a one-game suspension after being charged with driving under the influence last Saturday night.
Drummond struggled from the field going 0-for-4 and scored both points off of free throws before fouling out with 6:03 left in the game.
After scoring 29 Wednesday night against Ohio, Rian Pearson struggled in the Eagles’ 2-3 zone as he scored five on 1-of-10 shooting and made three free throws.
“Pearson’s the best zone player I’ve coached in my 26 years of in college coaching, he’ll be fine,” Kowalczyk said.
Both teams exchanged leads in the first 12 minutes of the game.
After Zach Garber’s two free throws put Toledo ahead 16-12 with 11:02 left, the pace slowed down.
Both teams went roughly 3:30 without scoring a single point until Glenn Bryant’s put-back dunk broke the drought with 7:47 left.
Bryant’s dunk started a 14-6 run for EMU as they went into the locker room with a 26-22 advantage.
The Eagles carried the momentum into the second half as they scored nine of the first 11 points.
Toledo would get no closer than seven as EMU cruised to a 21-point victory— its largest margin in MAC play this season.
EMU moves to within games of first place Toledo in the MAC West.
The Eagles blocked nine shots compared to the Rockets’ two.
From long distance, Toledo went 7-of-25, while EMU shot 4-for-11.
On Feb. 20, EMU will head to Dekalb, Ill., to take on Northern Illinois University.
NIU is 11-12 overall and 5-6 in the MAC West.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Chad Bush and Sean Hostetter will have the call on WEMU 89.1 FM with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:50 p.m.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.