The Eastern Michigan men’s basketball team suffered a loss to the Central Michigan Chippewas 77-66 at home Tuesday night.
Paul Jackson had 19 points along with five assists and four steals for EMU (13-15, 7-8 MAC). James Thompson IV notched a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Elijah Minnie had 11, despite not being in the starting five like usual. Kevin McKay had the game-high in points at 23 and grabbed 10 rebounds for Central (20-8, 9-6). David DiLeo scored 18 and went 5-of-9 shooting from the 3-point range.
Central Michigan was also missing its second leading scorer, Shawn Roundtree Jr., who suffered a head injury in its previous game against Ball State. It was a complete turnaround from first half to the second, as EMU took a 35-25 lead into halftime. Central Michigan shot 18 of 30 from the field after that to outscore the Eagles 52-31.
“We let them get comfortable in our gym,” Thompson said. “They had the momentum; their fans started getting into it, their bench started getting into it. You start to let shooters get opportunities and they start making it, they get confident.”
Rebounding was a factor in the turnaround for CMU, as they won the margin in the second half with 21 compared to EMU’s 13. The margin in the first half was in favor of Eastern at 23-11.
“We tried to keep the intensity up, but I know that’s where we lacked,” Thompson said.
In the first half, Ty Groce made plays on both ends of the court. He hit a 3-pointer to give EMU a double-digit lead with six minutes remaining. He also had two consecutive blocks when CMU had the ball moments later. Groce had nine points with six rebounds and three blocks in the game.
Eastern put up 22 points in the paint while Central Michigan scored just four in the first half, and that was a key part of the halftime lead.
Thompson said: “That was our bread and butter. We were going to force and feed the post, either me or Boubacar (Toure). So, I believe we got away from that, and we started settling. They wanted us to shoot more threes to allow them to get back into the game.”
Central Michigan came back in the second half with perimeter shooting and transition scoring. Under five minutes into the half, DiLeo hit a 3-pointer to get the lead down to 37-32.
Later, Thompson finished an alley-oop slam to make the score 42-39 in favor of the Eagles. But McKay finished a layup with contact on the opposite end and hit a free throw to the tie game with 13 minutes remaining.
From there, it was DiLeo and McKay scoring to put the game out of reach. Central’s hot shooting put them in a position to win the game.
Eastern Michigan will travel to DeKalb, Illinois and play Northern Illinois at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 2 with its second game against the Huskies. The Eagles won the previous matchup 57-49 on Feb. 9.