All four seniors on the Eastern Michigan men’s basketball team were given a proper sendoff on Senior Night with an 85-59 victory over the Toledo Rockets.
Karrington Ward, Mike Talley, Anali Okoloji and Jerome Hunter all started in their final game and played at the Convocation Center, then led the Eagles (19-12, 8-10 MAC) to the blowout victory over a solid team in Toledo (19-12, 11-7 MAC).
“I thought this was a good win for us to close out the season,” EMU coach Rob Murphy said. “Especially on senior day with four seniors playing their last college basketball games. In particular, Mike Talley and Karrington Ward coming here believing in my staff and in the program and continue to build it, they did tremendous jobs during their careers here.”
The Eagles opened up the first half trading baskets and taking a 14-12 lead on an Okoloji layup before the team went on a seven-minute field goal drought. Toledo took advantage of the cold Eagles offense and built a 24-15 lead that was capped off by a dunk by J.D. Weatherspoon.
Talley then ended the drought with 5:13 left in the first half which kick-started the Eagles to a 16-5 run to end the first half with a 31-29 lead.
“I thought tonight we came out and played really good defense,” Murphy said. “And Toledo punched us back, I would say, and then they went up nine and we took a step and took the lead at the half.”
The surge from the Eagles to end the first half continued in the second half as they opened the first eight minutes of the frame with a 22-7 run to stretch the lead to 53-36 with 12:01 remaining in the game. The Eagles defense also forced 12 of Toledo’s 20 turnovers in the game to aid in extending the lead.
“I thought when we started the second half we played very well on defense especially,” Murphy said. “We were able to get some takeaways and got some buckets in transition.”
Talley led the Eagles with 23 points, with 14 in the second half, to help finish off the blowout and complete his final home game in the green and white.
“This is what I asked for when I came here,” Talley said. “Being close to home is one of the reasons I came here [from Duquesne] and having everybody out there helped give me some extra to play out there today. Now it’s just win or go home, so it’s there to not want to lose the remainder of the season.”
Ward followed Talley in scoring with 18 points while junior Raven Lee scored 17, and freshman Tim Bond rounded out the scoring with 15. The performance echoes off coach Murphy’s goal of staying unbeaten in the month of March.
“We’re not where we would like to be, obviously,” Murphy said. “But we are where we are. Our goal going into Ball State was to stay unbeaten in March as long as we can. The season is March, the first four months don’t matter, and we’re 2-0 in March and are going to try to keep that going for as long as we can.”
With the regular season now complete, the Eagles will take on the Miami (OH) Redhawks in the first round of the Mid-American Tournament on Monday, March 9, at the Convocation Center.