With the final buzzer sounding off on a 68-57 victory Friday for Eastern Michigan University’s basketball team over the University of Illinois-Chicago, the Rob Murphy era got off to a positive start.
Junior guard Derek Thompson led EMU in the scoring with 17 points, with senior guard Darrell Lampley shooting for 12. Junior center Matt Balkema fouled out late in the second half but contributed 10. Senior center Kamil Janton came off the bench to lead the team in total rebounds (seven), with six of them on defense.
The Eagles returned with eight-letter winners and three returning seniors. They entered with three newcomers, two of whom are transfer players. Redshirt sophomore guard Austin Harper transferred from Glen Oaks Community College (Centreville, Mich.), while guard Anthony Strickland was eligible to play after sitting out last season after coming from Adrian College.
This game was the coaching debut for Murphy, a Detroit native who graduated from Mumford High School and went to Central State University. He was a coach in the Detroit Public Schools system and later an assistant coach at Kent State and Syracuse before being hired by Eastern Michigan. He said he has had a great experience since taking the coaching position at EMU.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me and I’m excited each and every day about it, and we have huge support here,” Murphy said.
EMU got the scoring going right away with the first two points of the game. Both teams contended for the lead, with EMU taking a six-point lead with less than two minutes left until halftime. UIC scored five more to cut the EMU lead to 27-26 at halftime.
Illinois-Chicago then came out and took a seven-point lead after four minutes into the second half. EMU began chipping away at it with a combination of free throws and layups inside the paint.
Eastern Michigan struck out ahead for good with Antonio Green tipping the ball in with less than eight minutes to play. Foul trouble for UIC made the Eastern Michigan advantage even bigger.
“Our guys hung in there and stuck together and continue to fight,” Murphy said. “They all had some confidence that we will win the game.
Murphy looks back at his coaching debut as an up and down experience.
“I’ve learned from the best coaches of all time in Jim Boeheim that you stick with your game plan and more times than not you may come out on top,” he said.
The next home game for Eastern Michigan takes place at 7 p.m. on Friday against Arkansas-Little Rock.
“m b v” as anything but a highly anticipated train ...