EMU vs. Syracuse — The Nightmare Continues
With Eastern Michigan’s lackluster performance at Duke in the rear view mirror, the Eagles can take a sigh of relief and…OH NO!!!! They have to play at number two ranked Syracuse next?? Will the horror never end?
I’m tired of writing articles that say “If Eastern plays their best, if Raven Lee and Karrington Ward light it up offensively, Eastern can surprise people.” At this point I think it is safe to say that there will be no surprising of anyone. As long as Eastern fails to control the defensive glass, they will lose games like this by double digits.
EMU can overcome their shortcomings on the defensive boards and beat mid-major competition, and that bodes well for MAC play, but unfortunately for the Syracuse game the outlook for even a close game is grim. My guess is that they will lose by 18-25 points.
The Eagles have had a mixed reaction to playing on the road, at places like Duke and Kentucky. Glenn Bryant, Mike Talley, and Daylen Harrison are experienced players and it shows in their play. Against Duke, however, both Ward and Lee failed to generate the kind of offense needed to hang with ranked teams. I hate to say it but they looked overwhelmed by the environment. Hopefully the Carrier Dome won’t have the same effect.
As the team has developed, it seems to me that the key to the season is DaShonte Riley. He needs to stay out of foul trouble, he needs to be more aggressive on the defensive glass, and he needs to do these two things consistently, every game. On offense, Riley needs to avoid turning the ball over and make an occasional shot when the defense lets him in close.
Another reason Riley is the key is that the play behind him is not up to the level it needs to be. Lekan Ajayi has looked completely lost at times. Senior Mo Hughley has stepped into the backup role as best as he can, but there is a significant drop-off in talent from Riley to Hughley. One of the things to like about Hughley is that he is all effort, but for Eastern to win the MAC Riley has to be logging the bulk of the minutes at center.
After Syracuse the team heads home, with one last holiday cupcake against Rochester. Then, finally, MAC play begins. EMU seems well suited for conference play, but with teams like Toledo, Akron, and Kent on the horizon, they need to clean up a few problems over the next couple of weeks. Get better on the defensive glass, keep Riley out of foul trouble, and more consistent scoring out of Lee and Ward. If they fix these problems in time, Eastern could still have a very successful season.
• Eastern has now played Syracuse on the road three years in a row, is it too much to ask that the Orange pay Rob Murphy a visit here in Ypsi one of these years?
• Eastern and Syracuse both changed the names of their mascots, sensitivity to offending Native Americans was the case for EMU, whereas Syracuse changed their mascot from Orangemen to avoid offending House Speaker John Boehner.