The Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team opened up conference play with a victory over the University at Buffalo Bulls 67-56 in Ypsilanti on Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles got off to a sluggish start offensively in the first quarter after multiple second chance opportunities at the rim and unforced mistakes. EMU’s defense kept the game close early forcing missed shots and turnovers for Buffalo.
EMU coach Tory Verdi knew that offensively the Eagles were not where they wanted to be.
“We weren’t making shots and we got stagnant and when we don’t make shots we can’t get into our press that can lead to deflections and turnovers in the game,” Verdi said.
Cha Sweeney had a game-high 22 points to go along with six rebounds and three steals.
“I thought Cha did a really nice job,” Verdi said. “When we needed a basket, she came through for us”.
Phillis Webb provided 12 points and seven rebounds and both Sera Ozelci and Rachel Kehoe each had seven points.
Verdi was pleased with Kehoe’s performance down the stretch of the game.
“She made some big plays when we needed them and the fact that our guards were able to find her allowed her to get to the free throw line,” Verdi said.
As the second quarter got underway, the shooting woes continued for the Eagles as the shots would not fall early. The Eagles defense remained tight against the Bulls limiting fouls and forcing missed shots that got EMU to go a 10-2 run to take a 16-15 lead midway through the second quarter. The free throw shooting of the first half was the vital offense for the Eagles knocking 12 of their 17 from the charity strike leading 28-21 at the break.
The Eagles finished the game shooting 70 percent from the free throw line (24-34) which was a goal coach Verdi had coming into the game.
“We knew that we could beat them off the dribble and they reached a lot from behind and the free throws began to add up,” Verdi said.
At the start of the second half, the Eagles got it going offensively going on a 7-2 run to start the third quarter to take a 35-23 lead before the Bulls called a timeout. The Eagles kept the pressure defensively holding under 40 percent while scoring 20 points in the quarter.
Despite the poor shooting in the first half for the Eagles, Verdi did not let the team hang their heads.
“I told them to stay aggressive and attack downhill and we were having success where our largest lead of the game was 16 in the third period,” Verdi said.
Going into the final quarter of the game, with a 48-34 lead, the Bulls cut into their deficit to three after going on a 13-0 run with 4:54 remaining in the game that forced Verdi to call a timeout. Coming out of the timeout the Eagles scored five unanswered points and kept the lead the remaining stretch of the game.
The Eagles shot only 33 percent (19-58) from the field and 29 percent (5-17) from behind the arc. EMU held Buffalo to only 32 percent (21-65) from the floor and 23 percent (5-21) from deep.
The Eagles struggled on the boards being out-rebounded 50-40 thanks to Buffalo’s guard Katherine Ups 14 rebound performance. Chanise Baldwin had a team high nine rebounds for the Eagles. EMU defense allowed them to score 18 points off of Buffalo’s 21 turnovers in the game.
The Eagles next conference game matchup will be against the Zips of Akron University. The Zips are coming off two straight wins versus Northern Kentucky and Youngstown State and are 6-5 on the season.