Sometimes, defense is the best offense and for Eastern Michigan University head coach Rob Murphy, things played out to a tee Tuesday night against Ball State University.
However, Murphy knows even with 18 forced turnovers on Ball State, more can be done to improve in the long run.
“Any time you can turn a team over 18 times and create some transition offense to get you some easy buckets, that’s something I will take,” Murphy said after EMU’s 72-56 victory over Ball State on senior night. “On the other hand, we need Riley to dominate similar to what Majok did on defense. As a unit, I know we will get better.”
EMU’s win over BSU gave them its 18th win of the season, which is the most since the 1997-98 campaign.
Redshirt senior J.R. Sims talked about the team’s growth since staying around after the hiring of Murphy in 2011, along with fellow senior Anthony Strickland.
“Each year, winning has been taken a lot more seriously,” Sims said. “As a result, the hard work has paid off for us.”
Mike Talley and Darell Combs came off the bench and scored 12 each to lead EMU (18-12, 10-7 Mid-American Conference West).
Raven Lee returned after sitting out the Northern Illinois University game with food poisoning and went for 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, 1-for-3 from long range and a free-throw make.
For Ball State (5-23, 2-15 MAC West), Majok Majok dominated on both sides of the ball with game highs in points (23) and rebounds (14).
Before the game, Glenn Bryant III, Da’Shonte Riley, Daylen Harrison, Strickland, Sims and Mo Hughley were honored in a seven-minute ceremony as family and friends accompanied each of the players onto the court.
Bryant, Riley, Harrison, Strickland and Sims started for the Eagles and in the four minutes and fifty seconds on the floor as a unit, outscored BSU’s starters 6-2.
After the Cardinals scored the next four points, the Eagles went on a 9-0 run capped off by Talley’s three-point play.
EMU’s lead would grow to as many as 12 on Combs’ three-point play with 3:34 left in the first half.
The Cardinals would cut the deficit in half to 31-25 after 20 minutes.
Strong play from both sides fueled an EMU 13-5 run in the first 4:53 of the second half.
“Ray, Mike and Karrington did a great job of setting the tempo in the second half,” Murphy said. “Anytime you can get into the flow of things, the game becomes more fun.”
Jesse Berry scored the game’s next five points to put Ball State back within single digits at 44-35 with 14:17 left, but would get no closer as EMU and more importantly the six seniors went home happy with a double-digit victory.
The Eagles close the 2013-14 regular season on March 8 at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio, when they take on the University of Toledo.
Toledo moved to 25-5 overall and 13-4 in the MAC West after going on the road to defeat Central Michigan University 73-69.
J.D. Weatherspoon and Justin Drummond combined for 32 points in the win.
In the teams’ last meeting on Feb. 15 EMU defeated Toledo by 21 and held them to 44 points.
Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Chad Bush and Sean Hostetter will have the call on WEMU 89.1 FM with pre-game coverage beginning at 1:50 p.m.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.