The Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team was eliminated from the Mid-American Conference tournament on Feb. 10, losing in the first round to the No. 9- seed Northern Illinois University, 81-76 in overtime.
Cha Sweeney led the Eagles in the loss with 26 points on 9-of-19 from the field, 4-of-6 from three and 4-of-6 from the line. Watkins scored 15 points to go with 10 rebounds to give her a double-double. Shannise Heady scored a career-high 17 points in the game as well to go with five rebounds.
Leading the Huskies was Alexis Lindstrom, who scored 31 points off the bench on 11-of-14 shooting and 9-of-11 from long range. Natecia Augusta also contributed 24 points on 10-of-16 from the field and 4-of-6 from the free-throw line plus she pulled down eight rebounds.
Amanda Corral also hit 2-of-4 from deep on her way to 15 points. Corral and Lindstrom took all the Huskies’ three point attempts and combined for 11-of-15 (73.3 percent) from deep. EMU also hit 50 percent of its threes, but only on eight attempts for four makes.
EMU head coach Tory Verdi said after the game that the loss was disappointing.
“We had our opportunities,” Verdi said. “We struggled from the free-throw line and you can’t (do that). You need every free-throw and now is not the time to start messing up, but we had our shot.”
Despite the disappointing end to the season, Verdi remained happy with his team and their effort.
“At the end of the day, I’m proud of our kids,” Verdi said. “I’m proud of their effort. We’ve faced a lot of adversity and we hung around.”
The first half was about as close as it gets with EMU up by two points. Both teams were shooting well at the half with Eastern and NIU shooting 58.3 percent and 60.9 percent respectively.
EMU went on a quick 6-0 run to start the second half and went up by eight after a Watkins jumper off a fast break.
NIU trailed for the next few minutes, but after a couple of three pointers from Lindstrom and some layups by Augusta, the game was tied again with 12:08 to go.
NIU followed that up with an 11-2 to run to go up by seven points, but then Eastern came back with a 9-2 run and the game was tied at 64 with 3:55 to go.
A layup by Augusta put NIU up two with 1:56 left, but Sweeney responded on the other end with a short jump shot to tie up the game and eventually go to overtime.
Lindstrom was at it again in overtime. She scored the opening bucket of overtime with a three pointer and after a Watkins jump shot on the other end; she hit another one to put NIU up four.
EMU cut the lead to three, but went cold from the field. EMU hit only 3-of-8 from the field and only attempted two free throws, while NIU went 3-of-5 from the field, but had 10 free throw attempts and EMU was unable to close the gap.
This loss ends EMU’s season as it finished 17-13 overall and 7-11 in the MAC. This was the last game for the team’s four seniors: Natachia Watkins, Desyree Thomas, Sara Stone and Olivia Fouty.
Verdi said that it’s hard to think about next year so early, but he is excited to keep improving next year.
“Our goal with this program is to keep moving it forward every single year,” Verdi said. “I think our staff did a terrific job this year just preparing our players each and every single game. We have a great recruiting class coming in and yes obviously we are sad to see our seniors go, but we are going to reenergize this program with a lot of youth.”