EMU rests seniors, wins first round of WBI

Morton jumps up for a three-point shot in the second half of the first round game versus Evansville on Thursday, March 20.

The Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team won its first round game in the Women’s Basketball Invitational tournament on Thursday, in a game where coach Tory Verdi rested all of his seniors, beating Evansville University 78-65.

When asked after the game about the resting of his senior players, Verdi said that it was just a coaching decision and that a lot of the seniors were playing through some pain throughout the season.

“It was just a game day decision that I made,” Verdi said. “Hopefully, those guys can get healthy.”
As for the seniors’ availability for the next game, Verdi was unsure and said that it would be another game-time decision.

EMU was led by Shannise Heady and Cha Sweeney scored 19 each in the win. Heady also threw in nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks in the game.

“Shannise is our most improved player,” Verdi said. “She’s really come alive in the last month. This is something she’s definitely earned.”

Verdi seemed optimistic about Heady’s future going forward.

“We are just excited about her growth and development and her future,” Verdi said.
Verdi praised Heady for her improvement as the season has gone along but also the work she has put in.

“For one, it’s more minutes, but it is also growth and development on her part, getting in the gym every single day and getting better,” Verdi said. “And then also it’s confidence. When you take all three of those things and put them together, it’s indicative of her improvement.”

Verdi also praised Jamaica Bucknor, who played a season-high 36 minutes tonight after logging only eight combined minutes in the previous four games and came away with a double-double (11 points and 13 rebounds).

“She (Bucknor) was very active on both sides of the ball,” Verdi said. “She gave us second opportunity chances and I’m really proud of her effort tonight.”

EMU had another double-double from Phillis Webb with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Janay Morton also scored 14 for the game.

Evansville was led by Mallory Ladd, who scored a game-high 21 on 8-of-12 shooting, 2-of-3 from deep and 3-of-3 from the charity stripe. Ladd also had nine rebounds and three blocks. Sara Dickey had 11 points but shot 5-of-19 and 1-for-8 from deep to get there.

Evansville was in control early, leading by as many as six points up until 5:51 left in the first half when a Heady free-throw tied the game. EMU would take its first lead of the game 27 seconds later off of a jumper by Sweeney and never looked back.

EMU led the rest of the way, save 28 seconds when UE led by 1. The lead expanded to 10 with 17:49 left in the game, but Evansville did mount a run. They went on runs to tie the game twice before finally taking the lead for the aforementioned 28 seconds. After Evansville took the lead, EMU went on a 20-6 run to close the game and to win by a comfortable 13.

EMU moves on to the next round of the WBI to face the University of Illinois-Chicago on Monday, March 24 at the EMU Convocation Center.

UIC is led by its scoring trio of Rachel Story, Ruvanna Campbell and Katie Hannemann. Story averages 18.1 points per game followed by Campbell and Hannemann with 16.5 and 14.6 respectively. Campbell also throws in 12.4 rebounds a game followed by Hannemann with 7.6 per game.

Verdi says that they are planning on taking Friday off to rest, but then it is back to the gym again for the next two days to prepare for UIC.

“Once we get in the gym, anything goes at that point in time,” Verdi said.

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