The Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball team fell to Miami of Ohio 59-48 on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Miami took an early lead behind consistent scoring from both their starters and bench players. Eastern Michigan had scoring from senior Paul Jackson, redshirt senior Elijah Minnie and redshirt junior Boubacar Toure. Senior James Thompson IV sat out for the first half due to a decision from coach Rob Murphy.
“It’s all about preparation,” Murphy said. “You have to come in day in and day out and continue to try to get better, and you have to have a certain level of effort in practice and on game day to come out to have some success. I didn’t see that in the last seventy-two hours, and that’s just the bottom line.”
Even when Thompson came into the game, he was shut down by Bam Bowman of Miami. Eastern finished shooting 15.8 percent from three, a season low.
“I thought Kevin [McAdoo] getting injured early hurt; he’s a guy we depend on to shoot it from the outside,” Murphy said. “I think Elijah was overthinking a little bit. Sometimes when you play an aggressive team, they make you overthink when they are communicating and talking and doing a good job closing out.”
Eastern’s offensive woes were not only from the free throw line but due to Miami’s aggressive defense as well.
“They do a really good job playing defense,” Murphy said. “Anytime you are going to play against a team like this, which we went over in practice, you have to make the extra pass and get the hockey assist. I thought a couple times when we were down, our guards tried to take it into their own hands. Paul took a couple bad shots and didn’t make a couple passes he should have made. I think Kevin came in and got to charge on a play. Anytime that happens and you are playing against a good defensive team in there getting stops, they build on that momentum, and then when they score, gets tougher and tougher and tougher.”
Eastern Michigan struggled in every facet of the game, having trouble from rebounds to fast break points.
“We didn’t execute throughout the first half, which led us into the halftime to make our adjustments, and then we came out and didn’t execute the second half,” Murphy said. “Again, hats off to them anytime you turn the ball over and anytime you allow offensive rebounds, it is very hard to be successful, and for me it just comes down to having a desire and a passion to want to do something, and we’ve consistently throughout the year have not found that desire or that passion to simply want to rebound the basketball.”
None of the seniors stepped up for Eastern Michigan, instead, the leadership came from Toure. Minnie, Thompson and Jackson were relatively quiet throughout the whole game.
“It starts with practice and preparation, you have to have senior leadership as well,” Murphy said. “We have four seniors, three in particular that are all MAC level players. But for whatever reason, they are not performing at a level.”
Murphy continued: “Me, as the head coach, takes the responsibility for losses, in particular, my staff and I will continue to prepare the high-level like these guys night in and night out are well prepared to go in battle, and we know everything strategically what they’re doing and what we’re trying to do. But when you get on the floor, the players have to carry that out, and then we have seniors who have been in our program for three or four years, so it’s not like it’s new, it’s not like we’re teaching something new. I’ve been here now in year eight, and to be quite honest with you, I haven’t been at this point with any team throughout my coaching career.”
After shooting just 7-21 in the first half, it didn’t get much better for the Eagles. Thompson started the second half, but he didn’t score his first points until the 14:17 mark when he found an opening in the paint. About three minutes later, EMU cut the lead down to five, which was the closest they had been since the first half. Unfortunately for Rob Murphy’s club, Miami answered right back with a quick 7-0 run of their own.
Minnie finished a baseline dunk from Jackson, which cut the RedHawks’ lead to 10, and that was followed up by a mid-range jumper from Toure, but the Eagles could never quite get back into the game. The closest they got in the last 10 minutes was a seven-point deficit, and that was immediately answered by a Miami basket. Jackson finished with 16 points, which was a team-high, but he shot just 5-15 from the field.
Regarding Murphy’s decision to sit Thompson the entire first half, Murphy said: “Coaches decision. You have to come in day in and day out and try to get better. And you have to have a certain level of effort in practice. I didn’t see that in the last 72 hours. And that’s just the bottom line. I didn’t think that made the difference in the game. It was all about Miami tonight.”
Miami was led by Dalonte Brown and Jalen Adaway, who each had 15 points and combined to shoot 7-8 from the free-throw line. Adaway also added eight rebounds, while Darrian Ringo put constant pressure on the EMU guards and finished with four points, two assists and a steal in 18 minutes. Eastern Michigan, now 9-13 (3-6 in the MAC) on the year, will get a week off before hosting Northern Illinois University on Saturday, Feb. 9.