Surviving and Advancing
I was unable to make it to Cleveland last night, so I watched the game on the internets and listened to WEMU. It was a solid victory, and a real step in the right direction. Tonight, I will be in Cleveland for the rubber match with Western and a potential trip to the semis against an overly well-rested and probably cold shooting Ohio team on the line. At least we can hope. If you follow us on facebook, and I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t, I will be providing numerous updates during the game, maybe even a picture or two.
For now here are some notes from last night’s win over Miami.
- I wrote in my post after the first round game that Eastern had to learn to put their boots on the neck of an opponent when they are down. Last night, up eleven points, EMU proceeded to go on an almost seven minute scoring drought. The lead did not evaporate, however, as the defense provided the pain to the Red Hawks. There were possessions last night when I felt that Miami had zero chance to score. The offensive ineffectiveness was troubling, but the defense completely demoralized the Red Hawks.
- A big part of the defensive vice-grip applied by Eastern was the continued inspired play of Da’Shonte Riley. Riley was a beast in the middle, grabbing boards, blocking shots, altering shots, and adding 10 points on offense. Western actually has a player who can compete down low, so Riley will have his work cut out for him tonight. He certainly appears to be up to the challenge.
- Daylen Harrison provided the offensive spark the Eagles needed after Derek Thompson cooled off, and before Bryant heated up in the second half. He seemed to sense when he was needed to score. He will have to ratchet up the offense as the tournament progresses if Eastern is to advance.
- Jamell Harris didn’t get a ton of minutes last night, but boy did he ever have a crucial two minute stretch in the second half. At the nine minute mark, Harris grabbed a big offensive board, and he followed that up with a steal on the defensive end and another huge offensive rebound, this time at the eight minute mark. Nice work by the senior.
- Thompson’s three heading into halftime managed to deflate Miami after a big three of their own. Earl Boykins used to be the master of the deflating three before half. After 8 points in the first round, Thompson had 14 points last night. Who wants to see 20 versus WMU?
As for tonight, Western has weapons and is rested. I don’t think, however, that fatigue will be a factor as Eastern is on three games in four days. I do worry about tomorrow night if it comes to that, but if it does the Ohio game is best described as what I call a “gravy game.” Or “icing on the cake” if your food metaphors lend to the sweet side. I prefer savory, so gravy it is. Either way, if Eastern manages to get past the Broncos tonight, they can let it all hang out on Friday.
As for predictions, I can’t help but like the all-out defensive effort I’m seeing out of Rob Murphy’s team. Let’s say it continues one more night, with Riley, Bryant, and Thompson leading the way. Eastern Michigan 53, Western Michigan 49.