Christmas came early for the Eastern Michigan women's basketball team as the Eagles upset the University of Michigan Wolverines, 64-63 on Wednesday night. EMU's defense allowed the Eagles defense to prevail over the Wolverines allowing them to score 20 points in the second half including six points in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles struggled in the first half defensively allowing the Wolverines to shoot 51 percent from the field and 50 percent beyond the arc as they trailed 43-31 at the break. The Eagles second half defense was the story of the night allowing the Wolverines to shoot only 27 percent (7-26) from the field.
EMU coach Tory Verdi credited the second half defense for the huge turnaround for the Eagles victory.
“There’s one player in particular that won’t show up on the stat sheet Tori Easley did a phenomenal job defensively” Verdi said. “What she did in our zone, her length bothered them, she got out to shooters and was discipline we took away the post. This is best shooting team we will see all year long and I’m proud of our program.”
The Eagles went into the fourth quarter down 57-45 before going on a 7-0 run with eight minutes remaining. EMU’s momentum would slow down after three straight turnovers but the Eagles defense did not allow the Wolverines with any points.
Junior Phillis Webb had a game-high 22 points, but it was Cha Sweeney clutch performance down the stretch scoring 12 points including nine in the fourth quarter. Senior Chanise Baldwin provided 14 points for the Eagles while junior Janay Morton scored 11 points.
The Wolverines largest lead of the game was 16 points but the Eagles did not fold down the stretch and Coach Verdi was proud.
“When you face adversity, you have to be resilient and be able to bounce back and we did that here today," Verdi said. “We could’ve just folded. Their pressure bothered us early on, we weren’t aggressive and my message to them in the second half to was that you have to believe in yourself”.
The game was not pretty for the Eagles turning the ball over 17 times but their defense forced 18 turnovers, which transcended nine fourth quarter points down the stretch of the game.
“We limited the Wolverines to one-and-done and it was the change of possession that allowed us to attack them,” Verdi said.
The game was within two points down the final two minutes of the game before Cha Sweeney tied the ball game up at 60. Coach Verdi refuse to call a timeout during that stretch, which allowed the Wolverines to become tired and make mistakes.
“I trying my hardest not to call a timeout because I knew they were tired and I wanted to continue to run," Verdi said. “I didn’t want them to setup a different defense and their adjustment from pressing us and going man helped us”.
The Eagles were out-rebounded by Michigan 37-35 and allowed 18 second chance points. EMU got after it on the break scoring 12 points and getting their overall scoring in the paint with 64 points. The Eagles shot 46 percent (25-55) from the field 91 percent (10-11) from the free throw line.
This was the Eagles first victory over Michigan since 2012 and Verdi noted the importance of the win for the program.
"It’s a great win and I feel like this team is better skill wise than we were last year,” Verdi said. "The fact that we got blown out last year at their place by 29 and the fact that we come back and win today it just speaks volume of our kids and their dedication and having a want to off the charts."
Webb contributed 22 points but was not satisfied with her individual performance on the defensive end.
“I think I did pretty well although I think I could’ve gotten so more rebounds,” Webb said. “You can’t make every play, you just have to think about what’s next if you do mess up and that was my mentality today
“This win means a lot it and was special because everything we did previously to this was to prepare us for tonight’s game and the fact that we executed like this is wonderful,” Webb said.
The Eagles look to close out their non-conference schedule as they travel to Detroit-Mercy to face the Titans. The Titans have lost two consecutive games to Western Michigan and the Spartans of Michigan State.