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The first cheers of fans in the convocation center were not enough to will the EMU Men's Basketball team to victory, as they suffered a hard loss to the Miami Redhawks. The Redhawks put on a shooting show, racking up a final score of 85 total points compared to the Eagles’ 63. The Eagles have let up back-to-back 80-plus-point-games against conference opponents; against Buffalo on Thursday, Jan. 21 and against Miami Saturday, Jan. 23.
For the first time in months, a limited number of fans were allowed back into the Convocation Center to watch the Eagles take on the Redhawks. Each player was allowed to bring in two guests to the game to watch, a welcome sight for sore eyes and a welcome sound for sore ears.
Head Coach Rob Murphy was happy to have a small taste of normality return. “To have the [players'] parents that means more than anything, to be honest,” he said. “For them to be able to come see their sons play, and cheer them on, and for us to be able to look up and see that support is refreshing.”
That didn’t help the Eagles’ performance, or at least not yet. The Redhawks piled on 85 total points in their win against the Eagles. Miami’s Dae Dae Grant shot 6-7 from beyond the arc, and always seemed to find the net whenever the Eagles could get momentum going.
“We have to collectively play really good defense, as opposed to playing in spurts,” Murphy said. “Some of it is due to us not having a consistent center and [not] being able to play our baseline defense and some of it is mindset and toughness.”
The Eagles shot a paltry 5-24 from deep, with key offensive contributors going silent from the floor. At halftime, senior guard Yeikson Montero, redshirt senior forward Ty Groce, and sophomore Drew Louder combined for a total of 1-18 from the field.
“You’ve got to play 36 minutes of consistent basketball on both ends of the floor in order to have an opportunity to win,” Murphy said. “Right now we play a good twenty-one to twenty-two minutes.”
Murphy changed up his team’s makeup in the second half, opting to put Groce on the bench for a majority of the period and playing redshirt junior Derek Ballard Jr. and senior Axel Okongo at the center position.
Murphy was underwhelmed by Groce’s performance in the first half. “He's our senior leader. If nothing else, we need him to come out and make unbelievable effort on both ends of the floor,” he said. “If he doesn't play exceptionally well, we don't really have a chance to play.”
Groce had his second-fewest minutes of the season at 23 for the green and white. His shortest game was against Central Michigan on Jan. 16, a game in which he fouled out. “I just expect him to at least start the game and bring a lot more energy and effort. He didn't bring that tonight, Murphy said. “Hopefully, Ty continues to buy in and get better. I know it's extremely tough switching positions during your senior year.”
The Eagles’ next contest will be in Akron Ohio against the Zips. The game will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 26, you can watch it on ESPN3.