The Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Wednesday afternoon behind Cha Sweeney’s 29 points – defeating the Ball State University Cardinals, 67-53, at the Quickens Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Eagles lost both matchups against Ball State in the regular season and EMU coach Tory Verdi was not pleased with EMU’s effort.
“We didn’t show up at their place …. we got off the bus and I’m not sure we even brought our basketball shoes,” Verdi said. “At our place I thought we did a pretty good job throughout the game, but at times we had a ton mental lapses where we lost three point shooters – costing us the game down the stretch”.
The Eagles got down early in the first quarter struggling on both ends of the floor – trailing early 8-0. Verdi would not call a timeout as EMU would slowly come back into the game and cut their deficit within one 18-17.
EMU started the second quarter with a pair of free throws to take the lead. Ball State would go six minutes without a field goal thanks to EMU’s defensive efforts. Cha Sweeney was all offense early in the first half with 19 points – attacking the basket and nailing three jumpers from beyond the arc. The Eagles entered the locker room with a 32-24 lead over Ball State.
In the second half, Ball State got their offense going as they cut the Eagles lead to one as 36-35. Following an EMU timeout, the Eagles jumped out on the Cardinals with a 9-2 run with their full-court pressure taking a 45-36 lead with under a minute in the third quarter.
Janay Morton started the fourth quarter offense with a triple for EMU – her first field goal of the game. Morton would score five more points in the quarter – giving the Eagles a double digit 55-45 lead.
The Eagles would not lose their double digit lead – winning 67-53.
“We did a nice job …. we outworked them the entire game and we knew that we would tire them out just from our pressure alone," Verdi said.
Sweeney finished the game with a game-high 29 points despite her early struggles. Morton added 12 points for EMU.
"Sweeney was unbelievable, Sasha Dailey and her pressure alone along with Morton all did an exceptional job for us," Verdi said.
The Eagles were stellar defensively – holding the Cardinals to only 30 percent (19 of 62) shooting and out-rebounded them 48-43 behind Chanise Baldwin’s 13 boards. Ball State also turned the ball over 11 times.
MAC Player of the Year, Nathalie Fontaine of Ball State, finished with a team-high 14 points and 10 boards.
The Eagles will look to win against Central Michigan Friday afternoon in the semifinal round. The Eagles have held their last nine opponents under 60 points and Verdi credits effort and strategy.
“We stress all year long that defense and rebounding wins championships and that’s exactly what we did hear tonight.”