The Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team played its last two games of the season this past week, going 1-1 and clinching the eighth seed in the upcoming Mid-American Conference tournament.
EMU started off on the road against the University of Toledo in Toledo with an 88-52 loss on Wednesday. The team concluded the season Saturday against Central Michigan University winning a 99-84 overtime thriller against their in-state rivals at the Convocation Center.
EMU finishes the regular season with a 17-12 record on the year and 7-11 in the MAC.
In the game against Toledo, Cha Sweeney led EMU with 23 points, but got very little from anyone else. The rest of the starters scored only 14 points on 6-of-25 (24 percent), 0-for-2 from three and 2-of-8 (25 percent) from the free-throw line.
Janay Morton, usually a starter, came off the bench in this game for 15 points and five rebounds.
EMU as a whole only shot 19-of-65 (27.5 percent) for the game and 5-of-26 (19.2 percent), while Toledo was scorching. Toledo shot 29-for-63 (46 percent) from the field and 12-of-23 (52.2 percent) from three.
Toledo was led by Inma Zanoguera with 20 points on 7-of-10 from the field, 1-of-2 from three and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. Zanoguera also added 14 rebounds and five assists. Brianna Jones also chipped in with 17 points and five rebounds.
Toledo improved to 14-14 on the season and 9-8 in the MAC.
EMU head coach Tory Verdi said after the game that his team got beat up and that the loss was embarrassing.
“Our game plan was to really clog up the middle and we’ll live with the outside shots,” Verdi said. “Right in the beginning, everything was falling for them offensively.”
Outside of the first 10 minutes, EMU never led in the game. EMU was up one point with 12:46 left in the first half, but was outscored 20-2 over the next eight minutes and the lead never dipped below nine in the game again.
Verdi said that his team would not dwell on the loss. He said that it was Toledo’s senior night and they played extra hard and with energy and the team needed to look forward.
“Nothing good comes out of this,” he said. “We just got to move on. You have to pick your poison against Toledo. They just totally dismantled us and we got to be tough and face adversity. We got to come together. We are going to use this as a learning experience and move on.”
The game against CMU was nothing like Wednesday’s contest. EMU didn’t have a lead for the entire first half, with CMU opening the game on a 16-4 run.
EMU went on a run near the end of the first half to close the gap to just three points, but after a pair of three pointers by Taylor Johnson the lead was back to nine. Sara Stone then hit a buzzer-beating layup to leave the score 39-32 at the half.
For most of the second half, EMU trailed between one and nine points and with 5:41 left CMU led 69-60.
EMU then responded with a 17-8 run to close the game capped off by a Desyree Thomas layup with 0.6 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.
In overtime, EMU took over. They outscored CMU 22-7 in the overtime period with Sweeney scoring five points along with Shannise Heady also with five.
EMU in the game was led by senior Natachia Watkins with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Sweeney also helped with 21 points and five rebounds. Thomas contributed with 17 points and Heady with 13 points.
Taylor Johnson led CMU off the bench with 23 points and rebounds. Niki Diguilio also scored 19 points and Crystal Bradford had 18 points and 19 rebounds with eight assists.
CMU fell to 20-10 overall and 16-2 in the MAC.
Verdi after the game said that he was impressed and amazed about how tough and gritty his team was in the game against Central.
”We faced some adversity, they [CMU] got up early and knocked down threes and our zone finally worked,” Verdi said. “We executed offensively and defensively. I’m just so proud of these guys and they made it happen.”
Verdi said that he was excited for the team and their upcoming tournament games. EMU plays next against Northern Illinois University in the first round of the MAC tournament.
“I’m so excited for us and our fans,” Verdi said. “What a great atmosphere it was today and a tremendous effort on all of our players’ parts. I’m excited for us.”