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Akron 70, Eastern Michigan 62

February 14, 2013

Sometimes in basketball the flow of a game can resemble a boxing match.  Tonight, a gritty Eastern Michigan team stood toe-to-toe with MAC leader Akron for thirty-five minutes before the Zips pulled away late.  The Eastern 2-3 zone did its job for the most part on this night, but Akron senior Brian Walsh — who hit three big-time threes late in the fourth quarter — managed to work the defense and land the knockout blows.

With  senior scoring guard Derek Thompson missing the game due to family concerns the Eagles were a little short on firepower, but did manage to mount a respectable offensive effort based on energy and at times sheer will.  The play of Anthony Strickland personified the team’s effort tonight.  Strickland was all over the court making plays driving to the hoop, drawing fouls and then proceeding to go 8-8 from the line, pulling down four rebounds, and putting forth a strong defensive effort.  Strickland also led the team with four assists, and minutes played with thirty-three.

Before the game I posted on Facebook that the key matchup was Da’Shonte Riley versus All-MAC Akron center Zeke Marshall.  The numbers tell a good deal of the story on their own: Riley had 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals.  Marshall had 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals.  While the numbers do give Zeke an edge, it should be noted that Riley frustrated Marshall for a good portion of this game.  This was another strong outing by Riley.

Point guard play was troublesome this evening, however.  The education of Jalen Ross continued, and the hope is that the lessons he is learning now will pay dividends in the future.  Ross did put down some late buckets and free throws that helped keep the game close.  J.R. Sims again proved that he is capable of running the point, and they did force Akron senior point guard Alex Abreu into nine turnovers – an impressive feat.

In the end, however, Akron had too many weapons in their arsenal.  Zeke Marshall came alive in the late stages of the game, Brian Walsh hit the big threes, and the Zips extended their MAC record to 11-0.

This was an effort to build on, though.  Eastern has a revenge road game this Saturday against Ball State.  It is time to pick up the first road win and begin the push toward the tourney.  If the season is a boxing match, it is getting late in the fight and the Eagles have taken their share of punches.  But the fight ain’t over yet…

Game Notes

  • Daylen Harrison got in a little foul trouble early and was on the bench down the homestretch.  Without Thompson in the lineup a big scoring game out of Harrison would have been helpful.
  • Glenn Bryant can be damn near unstoppable when driving to the hoop, which makes it maddening when he chooses to spot up for a three or take a contested turn-around jumper.  Whether it is a lay-in, a drawn foul, or one of his signature dunks, good things happen when Bryant takes the ball to the basket.
  • At the post-game press conference, Rob Murphy took umbrage with a capital U with what I wrote in my last post about the likelihood of his return next season.  Murphy emphatically stressed his commitment to Eastern, his roots in the community, and how he is working to build the program for the long term.  It should be noted that what I wrote was in no way presented as factual, merely the opinion of one writer.  Conversations with and comments by you, the readers, have shown that there was fear (yes, I am using the word fear) among the community of Eastern basketball fans that Murphy might not be on board for the long term.  While no writer wants their words to intrude upon the real story — the roller coaster ride that has been the 2012-2013 season — I was glad to hear Murphy speak with such passion about what he wants to build here.  The team has hit a rough patch this season, but the program looks set up for a bright future.  Better point guard play and another scorer to complement the stingy 2-3 zone could mean serious trouble for the rest of the MAC.
  • Another issue I have taken heat for is my criticism of attendance and the lack of students in the student section.  Once again, this is not meant to be critical of the students that are at the games.  The students in attendance are hardcore and give their all.  They are TRUEMU, all 50-75 of them.  This team plays hard.  They deserve more than the 672 wonderful people who showed up for an entertaining battle against Akron.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ken permalink
    February 14, 2013 2:34 am

    Pictures are forthcoming tomorrow. I was surprised at how loud the student section was but that might be a function of being right in front of them for half of the game. For the most part, I thougth Eastern looked pretty good. It’s a shame they couldn’t have scored more points off some of those takeaways. For some reason, it reminded me of Kris Draper from the Red Wings. You’d watch him get a breakaway only to shoot wide of the net. Maybe with more experience, EMU will be a team to be reckoned with next year.

    One more point…I didn’t realize that Akron’s colors were black and white because it sure seemed like they had some help from the extra members of their squad wearing those colors.

  2. Chief Huron permalink
    February 14, 2013 7:50 am

    I’m surprised Murphy gave you some heat about his commitment to EMU especially after his flirtation with Orlando as an NBA scout this past year after one year at EMU. Actions speak louder than words. Honestly I see this year ending right where they were last year 14-16. Yes I agree Murphy should hang around for two more years because he would really have an improved record with Talley and Ward plus others coming in next year. I hope they medicl redshirt Lee, he needs more time to develop, having him come back and play this year would be a waste in my opinion. I also agree that for most games this team has been very very competitive in the MAC and that’s a great sign for the program’s future.

  3. Kenneth Barna permalink
    February 14, 2013 1:44 pm

    Dear Jeremy,
    I’m glad that Coach Murphy took it out on you, but not for what it may seem. You got him to verbalize his willingness to stay with the program. Not that it will mean much if he leaves, but we fans can then call him every name in the book.
    I would also believe that this team will be better next year, especially with the addition of Mr. Talley and Mr. Ward. I also think that Mr. Riley is getting better with every game. They are baby step increments, but he is getting there. (What we all expected)


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