Ward sparks second half run in Eastern’s opening round win
Coming off a 20-point performance in Eastern Michigan University’s 77-66 setback to the University of Toledo Saturday, Karrington Ward matched that total against Central Michigan University Monday night at the Convocation Center.
This time, Ward and the Eagles were on the right end of the results.
12 of Ward’s game-high 20 highlighted an EMU 18-0 run which spanned 5:10 in the second half.
Ward felt the confidence oozing out of him after making the first of four three-pointers in the run.
“[All that was going through my mind was] just shoot, if I was open I would shoot,” Karrington Ward said with a smile on his face after EMU defeated CMU in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament, 72-60. “I was simply on fire.”
Several hours before the game, Ward was named to the third team All-MAC and felt humbled to even be honored.
“I was actually proud of myself,” Ward said. “I’ve had my ups and downs this season. I didn’t even think I would make the [All-MAC] team. After seeing that, it gave me a lot of motivation to play harder.”
Daylen Harrison, who EMU head coach Rob Murphy referenced as his “glue guy” all season came up with his best offensive output this season with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and a three-point make.
“Daylen has played solid for us all season and has been one of our more consistent guys,” Murphy said. “He played a lot of minutes in place of Glenn tonight. You saw every aspect of [Daylen’s] game— rebounding, blocking and making jump shots.”
Giving up on games is something CMU head coach Keno Davis does not accept and was proud to see its squad continue to score despite the large deficit late in the second half.
“Our team’s motto all year is never give up despite the margin,” Davis said. “We played really well and obviously there was a stretch in the second half where we couldn’t close out on [Eastern’s] three-point shooters.”
Eastern missed its first five shots until Harrison’s jumper with 17:21 broke the drought to even the game at two.
Mike Talley’s three-point play expanded the Eagles’ lead to 21-12 with 6:12 left in the opening half.
Central countered as it went on a 12-1 run that lasted 3:18. Talley’s three-pointer and Harrison’s nifty layup would put Eastern back on top 27-24 after 20 minutes.
With 14:52 left and EMU ahead 37-26, Central would not quit as it went on an 18-9 run, highlighted by eight consecutive points from Blake Hibbitts.
EMU would use multiple CMU turnovers to score 18 unanswered in 5:10.
The final 3:27 left would not be enough as the Chippewas’ run ended and the Eagles’ journey continues for at least 48 more hours.
Field Goals— CMU: 21-of-53 (39.6 percent) EMU: 26-for-55 (47.3 percent).
Central’s John Simons finished with a double-double (14 points and ten rebounds).
Glenn Bryant III (ankle) played three minutes and did not score.
“[Glenn] will be better in Cleveland as his ankle is about 70 to 75 percent right now,” Murphy said. “I just want him to get a little more rest to get him ready to play on Wednesday. Glenn begged me to put him in the ball game, but I knew he wasn’t himself, so I took him out of the game.”
Eastern will play the No. 7 seed Northern Illinois University Huskies Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
The tip is approximately at 9:00 p.m. or 30 minutes after the conclusion of Ohio University/Miami University game.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.