Even with 18 wins to close out the regular season, Eastern Michigan University basketball finds itself in the same predicament as last year— having to win five games in six days.
Last season, EMU came up two games short in the Mid-American Conference tournament as Western Michigan University advanced with a 70-55 win in the quarterfinal round.
This year’s journey for Eastern will begin in the first round of the MAC tournament at the Convocation Center Monday night against the No. 11 seed Central Michigan University.
Head coach Rob Murphy sees the tournament as an opportunity to start from scratch.
“In our minds, it is 0-0 because everyone is undefeated,” Murphy said. “I’m sure [Central] will be coming in looking to for a chance to get to Cleveland. We will have our work cut out.”
EMU swept both regular-season meetings against CMU— 72-59 on Jan. 14 at McGuirk Arena in Mount Pleasant and 64-42 on Feb. 26 at the Convocation Center.
Point guard Mike Talley was a one-man show on offense in the first meeting as he tied a career-high with 21 points and shot 6-of-13 from the field, 8-for-8 from the foul line and a three-point make.
Karrington Ward benefited from Talley’s play as he notched a double-double with 15 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
Central’s Chris Fowler was held to two points in the first half, but finished with 13 and grabbed six rebounds.
In the teams’ second meeting, Ward led the Eagles with 18 on 6-of-11 shooting, 3 three-point makes and 3-for-4 from the foul line.
Off the bench, Glenn Bryant III added 12 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Fowler scored 10 on 3-of-8 shooting, 2-for-2 from long range and 2-of-4 at the foul line for Central.
Ward comes into tournament play as the Eagles’ top scorer averaging 12.5. A season-high 28 points against Cleveland State University on Nov. 18, 2013, highlights Ward’s scoring of 20 on four occasions in the 2013-14 campaign.
Fowler has been the catalyst of Central’s offense as he leads the way with 17.7 points per game. On Feb. 1 at WMU, Fowler and CMU came up short 75-72, but scored a career-high 27 on 13-for-13 from the foul line and added three assists and two steals.
No. 11 Central Michigan vs. No. 6 Eastern Michigan
Convocation Center, Ypsilanti
Monday, March 10: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Time-Warner Cable SportsChannel Ohio
Radio: WEMU 89.1 FM (Commentators: Chad Bush and Sean Hostetter)
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.