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Liveblogging MAC Quarterfinal: EMU vs. Buffalo

March 13, 2014

March Madness is here in earnest as the Eastern Michigan hoops team is ready for some hot MACtion against Javon McCrea and the Buffalo Bulls.

Earlier this season, Eastern lost at Buffalo, but were by no means outclassed by the Bulls. As always, a key will be whether or not DaShonte Riley can stay out of foul trouble.

In my tourney preview, I wrote that Glenn Bryant needs to carry this team on his back if Eastern is to pull off a miracle. He certainly brought it during the second half last night. Win or lose, a big time battle between Bryant and McCrea will be fun to watch.

Rob Murphy and the Eagles met their end in this game last year. I don’t think anyone will be satisfied with a repeat performance.

As always, I’ll be updating periodically during the game. Games like this are why we love college hoops.

9:16 PM

Buffalo comes out cold and misses two from long range. Eastern fails to capitalize as Daylen Harrison misses a couple of long jumpers. Karrington Ward finally opens the scoring with a nothing-but-nylon three.

Freelove gets hot for the Bulls and at the first media timeout Buffalo leads Eastern 9-5 with 15:54 left in the first half.

Murphy can’t be happy with Freelove being wide open.

9:26 PM

K-Ward knocks down a three and a free throw to even the score, and Glenn Bryant gets into Beast Mode for an offensive putback.

With a big defensive board, a monsterous jam, and a pretty baseline jumper, GB looks fired up. GB is winning the early battle with McCrea.

Buffalo is settling for threes against the zone. Almost no work in the high post. Did Hurley do his homework?

Eastern is up 17-10 with 11:17 to go in the half after a dominant stretch, led by Bryant and strong defense.

Oh yes, and Riley has zero fouls.

9:37 PM

Raven Lee causing all kinds of problems for the UB guards. A big three and a layup help Eastern hold the lead, up 22-16 with 7:50 left in the first.

Javon McCrea is visibly frustrated and barely in control. Quality minutes from Mo Hughley help keep the MAC Player of the Year in check.

Riley set to check in again. DaShonte has been very strong on the defensive end tonight.

9:45 PM

For Buffalo, all you need is Freelove, as their two-guard is keeping the Bulls in the game. Freelove has twelve of the Bulls twenty-four points, and the score is EMU 26, Buffalo 24 with 3:56 left in the half.

Bufallo apears content to live or die from three. With McCrea neutralized, Murphy is probably happy with that. They can’t stay hot all game. Can they?

9:59 PM

Halftime at the Q and Buffalo has a 32-29 lead over EMU. Hot shooting from Freelove has been the difference, as the Bulls senior guard has 15 points, all from three. Meanwhile MAC POY McCrea has 2 points.

Game is close like we thought it would be, but Buffalo has been reliant on the three. Currently, the Bulls are shooting 50% from behind the arc. You would think this kind of shooting can’t be kept up, but if McCrea comes alive in the second half, it may not matter.

Mike Talley was not his usual self in the first half. Quality point guard play is absolutely necessary to win in March. Talley needs a strong second half for Eastern to win.

10:19 PM

K-Ward opens up with five straight for Eastern, but Freelove continues the hot shooting with three more threes. Meanwhile, McCrea is 3-6 from the line, and has three points for the game.

Eastern is getting frustrated by the hot three point shooting and forcing shots on offense. Freelove has 24 points with eight three pointers.

When a player gets this hot, there isn’t much you can do. Try to weather the storm and hope he cools off.

Buffalo is up 42-34 with 16:43 left in the game.

10:36 PM

Darell Combs is feeling it and has scored seven in a row for Eastern, helping the Eagles get closer, now down by only three. McCrea hit a jumper but no threes for Freelove in that stretch.

Play starting to get physical, and Bobby Hurley is channeling his inner Coach K and trying to whine his way to some cheap foul calls. Officials aren’t buying it.

Buffalo 47, Eastern Michigan 44 with 11:21 left in the game.

10:47 PM

Teams trading chippy fouls, although Hurley can’t believe any fouls are being called on Buffalo. He’s done a great job with this Buffalo team, but he exudes the spoiled entitlement that comes from Duke.

Two big threes by Daylen Harrison and Eastern takes the lead for the first time since early in the first half! Harrison had been quiet up to that point…seniors need to step up.

Looking for a strong finish from all the seniors, especially Bryant and Riley.

Eastern has the lead, 55-54 with 7:10 left in the game.

10:59 PM

DaShonte Riley has 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks but is playing a very strong game. McCrea still only has 5 points and has been completely frustrated by the EMU zone. Meanwhile Eastern has tightened up on Freelove. Riley got out and challenged him, forcing a miss.

Without the threes falling, Eastern’s zone is the difference in the second half. A huge block by Riley before the timeout and Eastern is putting their stamp on this game.

EMU is up 60-55 with 3:38 left in the game. “Mony Mony” by Billy Idol playing at the Q. Takes me back to middle school.

11:20 PM

That’s a winner, Eagle Nation! A strong defensive effort in the second half carries EMU to a 69-64 victory over a solid Buffalo team.

My three stars:

1) DaShonte Riley — Riley owns the middle and keeps Javon McCrea frustrated all game long.

2) Glenn Bryant — GB was the emotional leader, making big plays and keeping McCrea in check.

3) Mike Talley — Talley came to play in the second half, knocking down huge free throws and almost gives Bobby Hurley a heart attack.

Final thoughts after the press conferences.

12:02 AM

I was pretty critical of Bobby Hurley during the game, but he was a stand up guy at the press conference. Hurley said he elected not to call a time out when Regan grabbed the offensive board with 5 seconds left. He said he thought there could be a quick kick-out for three. He also said leaving that timeout uncalled was going to keep him up tonight. Understandable.

Rob Murphy was all smiles with his team’s effort and resiliency. He praised Darell Combs for the instant offense when the team needed it. He acknowledged Daylen’s two monster threes. Finally, he credited the seniors for never giving up and fighting back.

This was another character win for EMU, featuring crucial coaching adjustments by Murphy and strong point guard play by Mike Talley.

Toledo will be tough, but the Rockets have a history of falling apart in the MAC Tourney. Sitting and watching for five days may bring some rust. No doubt it will be another hard fought battle.

Good night from the Q, and let the madness continue!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kenneth Barna permalink
    March 14, 2014 9:07 am

    Dear Jeremy,
    I think you hit it spot on with the statement that Eastern showed “character” in their performances so far in the tournament. Watching the press conference after the game, with Ward and Talley, they seemed like they were excited, having fun, and willing to give teammates credit. No doubt winning makes it fun, but Eastern is playing like we all thought they could. Yes there were moments during the season that looked like this tournament, and I think they can make it to the finals with what I have seen so far.

  2. Ken permalink
    March 14, 2014 9:41 am

    When this venture started on Monday, I seriously thought their season was done when Central managed to pull within 2. It seemed inevitable that Central would somehow battle the demons from the regular season and pull off the upset. Then Karrington Ward stepped up and put the Chippewas back in thier place. I didn’t catch the game against the Huskies but I did watch the game last night after Eastern pulled ahead. After watching that, I think the Eagles may have it in them to go all the way to the Big Dance. They’ve shown they can beat both Toledo and Western if all the pieces of the team are functioning. Last night I saw that team.

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