The Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball team hosted the University of Michigan-Dearborn for the team’s second match of the season Sunday at the Convocation Center. Unlike their match against Spring Arbor, U of M-D proved to be a more competitive opponent. In the first half, U of M-D shot the ball extremely well from behind the arc keeping them in the game. However, the Eagles proved to be the better all-around team, winning the game with a final score of 97-73. The victory starts the Eagles season off undefeated with a pair of victories at home.
Eastern Michigan’s offense picked up where it left off against Spring Arbor, scoring six of the first eight points in their match up against U of M-D forcing the visiting Wolverines into an early timeout. Eastern’s defense relied heavily on a full court press off the inbound and that defensive pressure carried over into their match up against U of M-D. Center James Thompson IV found great success early in the first half down low securing six of the Eagles first 12 at the basket.
Unlike Spring Arbor, U of M-D was able to move the ball around enough on the offensive end to beat Eastern’s zone. By stringing together a pair of three pointers that cut Eastern’s lead down to 22-20, U of M-D forced the Eagles to take a timeout to halt the run. Out of the timeout, Eastern outscored the Wolverines 15-5, a run which was capped off by a Tim Bond steal and slam at the other end.
The first half came to a close with the Eastern Michigan Eagles ahead, 49-43. Elijah Minnie scored 20 points in the first half on 7-9 shooting. Minnie led the team in scoring against Spring Arbor with 22 points total, which he nearly matched in the first half alone against U of M-D.
Defensively, Tim Bond led the team in blocks and steals with two in each category in the first half. A lack of ball security plagued the Eagles as they finished the half with seven turnovers as a team. U of M-D scored 30 of its 43 points from behind the arc, exposing a glaring weakness in the zone defense that Eastern has demonstrated in the first two games of the season.
In the second half, U of M-D continued to let it rain from behind the arc, hitting two quick threes. Eastern matched these threes with one of their own from guard, Tim Bond, followed by an And-1 finish by Paul Jackson. Eastern started off the second half outscoring U of M-D, 23-13, pushing their lead to 16. To combat the three point barrage that was keeping U of M-D in the game the Eagles kicked up the defensive intensity. Along with playing better defense U of M-D cooled down from behind the arc, only shooting 27 percent in the second half. The Eagles pushed the lead to 20 points, going up 76-56 following an Isaiah Green finish in the paint. With under 10 minutes left and a 20-point lead, Eagles’ coach Rob Murphy opted to give minutes to his younger players on the team.
Freshman guard Malik Ellison struggled from behind the arc, missing both of his three-pointers. However, Ellison still managed to finish around the rim, scoring six points on the game. Fellow freshman guard Kevin McAdoo knocked down a three and followed it up with a block and a steal on the other end. Coach Rob Murphy said when asked about running the two freshmen together in the backcourt that “This was a situation where we had a lead and I wanted to get those guys some game experience.” He went on to add that “Neither one has put their stamp on the rotation,” but he wanted to continue to give them minutes on the floor to make them more comfortable.
Elijah Minnie finished the game as the Eagles leading scorer with 27-points. Starters James Thompson, Tim Bond and Paul Jackson joined Minnie in double figures with 14, 15 and 15 points, respectively.
Eastern Michigan did exactly what they were supposed to do to open the season by taking care of their first two nonconference opponents with ease. Only time will tell what the ceiling is for the Eagles, but if the first two games are any indication of what the team could become then they are in a great place. Taking care of the basketball and closing out on threes is an issue the team needs to address in coming weeks. The Eagles welcome in Arkansas State Thursday, , 16 at the Convocation Center, followed up by another home game against Howard University on the following Saturday.
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