The Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team won its first round opener for the Mid-American Conference Tournament over Kent State University, 73-60, Monday night at the Convocation Center.
Coming into their matchup, the Eagles had won ten straight over the Golden Flashes. EMU coach Tory Verdi did not overlook Kent State as he remembered how tight the games had been.
“This game has everyone’s attention especially mine they are a good team for some strange reason they struggle to finish late in games …. We expect this to be a hard fought game," Verdi said.
The Eagles were all business early on offensively, which was one of Verdi’s keys to victory over Kent State.
“We have to have a lot of fight offensively early on,” Verdi said. “If we execute on all cylinders, we’ll able to get on that bus and move on to Cleveland and hopefully get it going again.”
Although EMU scored early on, they also turned the ball over four times and Kent State capitalized for 11 points. The Eagles lead 18-15 after the first quarter.
Kent State’s McKenna Stephen kept her team in the ball game entering the second quarter cutting their deficit with four minutes left in the half. Although EMU would struggle offensively in the second quarter, they lead heading into the locker room, 31-30. Janay Morton led the Eagles with eight points.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Eagles got out on a 5-0 run forcing Kent State to call a timeout. The Golden Flashes bounced back from their deficit and went on a 9-0 run to take a 39-36 lead.
Both team traded baskets in the third quarter as Cha Sweeney and Phillis Webb would contribute to the offense. Rachel Kehoe also got involved offensively off the bench scoring five points – including a three-point play to give the Eagles a lead.
Entering the final quarter, ahead 52-47, momentum would swing in favor of the Eagles with Sweeney getting her teammates involved as she recorded a double-double. Kent State trailed by as many as seven points down the stretch and could not comeback as they would be forced to foul – losing 73-60.
Leading all scores for the Eagles was Janay Morton with 17 points, Chanise Baldwin added 13 points and Webb provided 14 points, but it was Sweeney’s all-around effort with 14 points, 10 assists and six steals that sealed the victory.
“She was our catalyst tonight – she did a great job of attacking the gaps and dropping off passes to people especially our forwards who did a nice job finishing,” Verdi said.
EMU shot 46 percent 24-of-52 from the field and 53 percent 8-of-15 from beyond the arc. The Eagles struggled from the free throw line shooting 17-of-26 only 65 percent. The Eagles forced 18 turnovers on Kent State as they advance to Cleveland.
“If we play up to our potential we can win ourselves a championship,” Verdi said. We just have to make sure everyone comes together and everyone does their job and we’re disciplined both offensively and defensively.”
The Eagles will travel to Cleveland to face the Cardinals of Ball State on Wednesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Ball State won both of their regular season match ups this year.