The host Titans came out of the gates just how a team looking to end a five-game losing streak should…on fire. Detroit Mercy jumped out to a 17-7 lead over the Eagles, thanks in large part to the excellent shooting of true freshman guard Corey Allen, who had 8 of his team-high 20 points in this early span. But Eastern Michigan settled in and never panicked, as they erased that deficit and dominated play on both ends, en route to an 87-61 victory. The Titans had no answers for Eagles star senior guards Ray Lee and Willie Mangum, who had 17 and 21 points, respectively. The Eagles shot 49% from the field, compared to just 38% for the Titans. A big reason for this shooting disparity was because the Titans had to settle for a lot of outside shots because of EMU’s stifling 2-3 zone defense. The two most telling team stats that prove EMU’s defensive prowess was that they won the steals battle 12-5, which helped lead to 19 Titan turnovers, while the Eagles took care of the ball and only had 8 turnovers. When the Titans were able to penetrate the defense, they had trouble getting quality shots inside because of the presence of superstar sophomore power forward James Thompson. He notched his sixth double-double of the season by scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. It was easy to see that Thompson has the potential to be on an NBA roster in the near future, despite not even having his best game.
Speaking of potential, the aforementioned Corey Allen was clearly the best Titan on the floor today. He is improving with every game and did a great job of finding open shots for himself. Junior forward Jaleel Hogan continues to play well, as he had a hard-earned 11 points and 9 rebounds. Even though one could not tell by looking at the box score, freshman walk-on Ed Carter played well in nearly 20 minutes on the floor. He played with a lot of confidence and intensity. He was not afraid to shoot the ball, and made some good passes to his teammates. Don’t be surprised if he continues to see a good amount of playing time, as he showed a tremendous amount of effort out there. And that is the style of play that needs to become contagious on a struggling team.
Eastern Michigan is clearly one of the best teams in the MAC, and very well could be NCAA Tournament bound. Very few mid-major teams can say that one of their stars is a big man. With the college game becoming so guard-oriented, having a great forward/center can put a team at a huge advantage. For example, Central Michigan will be a very tough opponent in the MAC. But CMU does not have any great big men. Having Thompson, the Eagles X-factor, will give Eastern Michigan a big upper-hand in conference play, especially as the Eagles try to go to their first Big Dance since 1998. For now, the Eagle improve to 5-3. They do not play again until December 11, when they host NAIA opponent Siena Heights.
Meanwhile, the Titans (1-6) will start a three-game road trip on Saturday night when they travel to Murray State, of the Ohio Valley Conference.