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Liveblogging MAC Semifinal: EMU vs. Toledo

March 14, 2014

After a seemingly endless day of anticipation, and a delicious lunch, the time has come to quench our appetite for March Madness. Specifically, Eastern Michigan vs. Toledo, in what promises to be a heavyweight bout.

Toledo has the high flying offense, led by fifth year senior Rian Pearson. EMU has the suffocating defense, led by fifth year seniors DaShonte Riley, Glenn Bryant, and Daylen Harrison. These teams split in the regular season, there is unfinished business between Eastern Michigan and Toledo. Let’s finish it. Tonight.

Tonight’s game requires a complete contribution by the Eagles. Will fatigue play a factor? Will UT come out cold and nervous? No more questions, answers to come within the next two hours.

Time to sit back and savor the first MAC semifinal for EMU in fifteen years.

I’ll be back during the breaks. Game on!

9:30 PM

Eagle Nation is right behind me, and they are loud and merciless. I don’t think Justin Drummond’s Mom would appreciate some of the things they are saying.

Raven Lee opens the scoring with a three, and K-Ward joins the fun. Really weak foul called on Riley, who has come out strong. EMU jumps out to a lead, 8-5 with 15:56 left in the half.

Rian Pearson has all five of Toledo’s points. Pearson is a serious difference maker, I know Juice Brown gets the accolades, but Pearson is the player that Eastern needs to keep in check.

9:40 PM

Mike Talley is on his game early, with 4 points and 2 assists. Kowalczyk is whining about Riley fouls; wishing doesn’t make it so. Riley is controlling the interior yet again.

Right now the pace favors Eastern, but Toledo can score in a hurry. Gotta keep the defensive intensity strong. On that note, J.R. Sims is ready to check in.

Eagle fans still riding Drummond. Best line: “You’re inhumane! You could have killed a human being!”

9:48 PM

With Riley on the bench, Toledo goes on a run, forcing Murphy to take a timeout and get Riley back in the game. Rian Pearson with a couple of buckets and Toledo is up 22-19 with 7:01 left in the half.

Riley was tentative on a drive by Pearson, wants to avoid foul trouble. I appreciate that thought, but he cannot lose his aggressiveness.

9:56 PM

Pearson avoids a technical and continues to score. Dude has 13 points. Sometimes I hate being right. Toledo has expanded their lead to seven, 28-21 with 3:53 left in the half.

Pretty sloppy stretch offensively for Eastern, not taking good care of the rock. They need to keep this margin at seven or less by halftime.

10:12 PM

Darell Combs pops a clutch three at the buzzer and EMU cuts the margin to four. At the half, Toledo leads 32-28.

Eastern has come back from double digit deficits the past two games. They cannot put themselves in that position again.

A similarity to last night is that the scoring from Toledo is dominated by one player, Rian Pearson. Like Freelove from Buffalo, odds are Pearson can’t keep up this pace for the whole game. We know that Murphy is more than capable of making adjustments.

Key stat: Toledo is outscoring Eastern in the paint, 16-4. Surprisingly, this has been Pearson operating in the paint. Riley will need to pick up the agressiveness, he has one foul after the first half. He can step up the intensity now.

10:22 PM

Halftime is over and Eastern is back on the floor. I see no evidence that this team is tired. As long as Riley ups his aggressiveness, and Pearson cools off just a bit, EMU should be just fine.

The first few minutes of the second half will be huge. Got to carry the momentum from the big Combs three.

10:35 PM

Eastern tries to open the scoring with a Riley reverse layup with predictable results. Murphy gets Combs back in for Lee, a smart move considering how well Combs played in the first half.

Pearson scores another bucket in the paint. At 6-4, Pearson should not be able to operate inside like that. Toledo is also controlling the boards, and leads 38-31 with 15:44 left in the game.

Glenn Bryant has that look in his eyes. Now would be a good time for Glenn to take over the paint.

10:45 PM

Riley takes control inside, and now has three blocks. Add GB’s five blocks and Eastern is using their athleticism to disrupt the Rockets. Toledo leads 39-36 with 11:38 left in the game.

Murphy gets Ward and Sims in the game, for an offense/defense dichotomy.

Toledo has gone cold. Eastern’s defense is obviously the big reason, but no one outside of Pearson is stepping up. Momentum has shifted to Eastern, thanks to serious defensive intensity.

I’m liking the feel of this game right now.

10:55 PM

Eastern can’t seem to get the game tied, as Nathan Boothe has scored four points and put the Rockets up 43-38 with 7:38 left in the game. Possible foul trouble alert for UT, as Pearson and Brown have three each.

Last night at this time, Murphy went with four seniors and Talley. Same group is in now. Murphy putting the game in the hands of his seniors.

11:06 PM

That ended quickly as Murphy brought Ward and Combs back in. Talley leading the charge back for Eastern, but a big three by Brown kills the momentum. With 3:03 left in the game, Toledo leads 54-42.

Quite simple actually, Toledo stepped up and made shots while Eastern couldn’t muster anything on offense.

This game is over. The deficit is too great, and the lid is on the bucket for Eastern. The look of anguish on Murphy’s face says it all.

Long bus ride back for Eagle Nation.

11:21 PM

It’s all over. Literally. Final score: UT 59, Eastern 44.

EMU put forth a game effort for thirty-two minutes but fell short on the offensive end. Great tournament run for the seniors.

I can’t help but go back to the games EMU lost during MAC play. They had such a tall order to win five games in six days, they had to play near perfect.

I do think the seniors deserve a big thank you from EMU fans. The program was dormant when they came here, and they got us close.

Glenn Bryant gets the game ball with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 blocks.

Final notes after the press conference.

12:13 AM

At the press conference, Rian Pearson said he was able to operate freely in the high post, always a key way to beat the zone. It certainly paid off, as he managed to score the bulk of his points down low, and pull down nine rebounds. No question Pearson was the difference, he played strong all game long.

Rob Murphy said no excuses, but the team did lose the 50/50 battles, and their legs seemed to go at the end. He praised the seniors and thanked them for sharing his vision.

Riley refused to admit he was fatigued, and said he just didn’t play well enough. I thought Riley gave everything he had, it’s a sign of character that he refused to make excuses.

I’m pretty spent emotionally, and my ears hurt from people yelling right behind me all night.

Eastern will be playing post season basketball, in either the CIT or CBI. Any talk of the NIT is asinine. (I must be tired, I’m getting belligerent.)

Good night from Cleveland. It may not have ended the way we wanted, but it’s been fun. Peace.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2014 9:24 pm

    Being stopped for 35 seconds…not an auspicious start for EMU’s offense.

  2. March 14, 2014 10:47 pm

    I’d like to see EMU put up fewer three shots and attack inside more. It just doesn’t make sense right now to keep throwing this rushed contested shots from outside.

    • March 14, 2014 10:49 pm

      Loving the defensive effort, though!

  3. March 14, 2014 11:04 pm

    WTF was that shot??? That’s what I’m complaining about.

  4. Bbscorekeeper permalink
    March 14, 2014 11:16 pm

    Just shows tournament is set up for conference winners. Hard to come out of the 6th seed and get to final.

    • Ken permalink
      March 15, 2014 10:57 pm

      I don’t have a problem with that. If the MAC sent more than one team, I wouldn’t mind giving the regular season the option of taking the tournament off (so to speak) but they don’t.

  5. Jeremy Rosenberg permalink*
    March 14, 2014 11:27 pm

    Yep. Losses at home to Ohio and on the road at Miami were killers.

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