In the final game of the regular season, Eastern Michigan ran into a roadblock on the road to the Mid-American Conference Tournament, losing 64-58 to conference rival Toledo at Savage Arena March 8.
Because of the loss, the Eagles will finish with a losing record of 15-16 on the year; the last time EMU finished with a losing record was the 2016-2017 season when it went 16-17. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter whether Toledo won or lost the game as the Rockets had already ensured that they would get a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament. The Rockets locked up the MAC West division with a 25-6 overall record.
In contrast, it mattered greatly to the Eagles whether they won the game or not. The result of the game would impact seeding and who EMU would be playing in the first round of the tournament. Due to the results of the game, the Eagles first-round opponent will be Ball State.
The Rockets put on an offensive performance that stunned the Eagles, hitting shot after shot from 3-point range to blow past the Eagles. 39 of Toledo’s 64 points came from behind the 3-point line, which is 60 percent of its total offense. It seemed that the Eagles had the game well in hand to start, with 10:00 left in the first half. Eastern Michigan having a 10-2 lead, had forced six turnovers and were holding Toledo to 20 percent shooting.
After the first 10 minutes of the first half, Toledo kicked it up a notch. In the final 10 minutes of the first half, Toledo would score 29 points to take a 31-20 halftime lead. The offensive explosion by Toledo was spearheaded by seven 3-point shots.
In the second half, the Eagles looked to close the gap, and in fact did outscore Toledo 38-33 in the second half. They cut the lead down to 48-47 with 6:13 left in the half after a layup by Elijah Minnie but it was too little too late and the Rockets held onto their lead.
For the Eagles, Paul Jackson led the team in scoring with 17 points, 11 of those came from the second half. Minnie was the only other member of the team to score in double figures as he added 15 points. James Thompson IV won the MAC rebounding title for the third time in the last four years with an 11-rebound showing.
While the Eagles struggled offensively, Toledo had four players score in double digits. Spencer Littleson and Jaelan Sanford both scored 14 points, Marreon Jackson added 13 and Nate Navigato finished with 10.
Coach Rob Murphy and his team were not made available for comment after the game.
Eastern Michigan’s next game will be March 11 at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti for the first round of the MAC Tournament against Ball State.