The Eastern Michigan Eagles (16-13, 6-10) men’s basketball team came out with a huge victory on Saturday, Feb. 29 at the Convocation Center. EMU came back from 14 points down to defeat Central Michigan, 67-63, behind Yeikson Montero’s 17 points. Boubacar Toure had 13 points and 14 rebounds on Senior Day for the Eagles.
“Really good win for us, especially after the last game. Everyone continued to buy in and we knew we were going to bounce back in the next game,” said EMU head coach Rob Murphy. “We needed to match their intensity and energy. We were able to get some deflections and steals then the crowd got into it.”
It was a close game for the first 10 minutes but then Central Michigan knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers, including two from David DiLeo, to extend their lead to 24-12. Dallas Morgan connected on a mid-range jumper to give the Chippewas a 33-19 lead with 1:04 to go in the first half. That was the largest lead of the game.
In the second half, Shamar Dillard made a sweeping layup to pull the Eagles within three points. The Chippewas responded immediately, though, with a 13-3 run, which was capped by another DiLeo 3-pointer. With less than four minutes to go, the Eagles found themselves down 61-52 and it looked like they were headed for a third straight loss.
And then Montero stepped up. He knocked down a deep 3-pointer from the wing to make it 61-55, in favor of Central Michigan, with 3:11 to go in the game. Next time down, Ty Groce swung the ball to a wide open Montero at the top of the key and he made another 3-pointer to pull the Eagles within three points at 61-58.
After that, Eastern Michigan’s defense forced a steal which led to an open dunk for freshman Chris James. On the next possession, Groce lobbed a pass to Toure, who was fouled and still finished the dunk, giving EMU a 62-61. Toure and Thomas Binelli would combine to make five free throws in the final two minutes to secure a 67-63 victory for the Eagles.
“Hard fought win. To be able to sweep Central is impressive. I give these guys a lot of credit,” Murphy said. “At halftime, we were still within striking distance and I challenged these guys to come together. I thought we came out with that in mind. Credit to Yeikson Montero for hitting some big shots. Every shot was needed.”
Toure also discussed his performance and the team victory on Senior Day: “It was a very hard game to play. When I watched the video, I got tears in my eyes. It was tough for me. The first half, it was very hard to get over those emotions. I was just being aggressive. I was trying to match the energy that coach said.”
EMU has two games remaining in the regular season schedule as they face Western Michigan on Tuesday, March 3 at 7 p.m. in Kalamazoo. The final regular season game of the year will be held on Friday, March 6 in Toledo at Savage Arena. Then EMU will participate in the MAC Tournament, which begins on Monday, March 9.