Eastern Michigan University isn’t typically known as the premier athletic powerhouse of Washtenaw County. But last night, the Eagles taught the Wolverines a thing or two on the basketball court.
Riding an 18-2 second-half run, Eastern Michigan zoomed past its cross-county rival, erasing a two-point halftime deficit and earning a hard-fought 69-60 victory over the Michigan women’s basketball team. It was the Eagles’ first win over the Wolverines since 1979 and their first ever at Crisler Arena.
“Eastern’s a quality team,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “Their kids played really hard. And ours stayed with it to the end.”
After both teams’ offenses sputtered early on, the Eagles (7-0) began heating up with just under 15 minutes to go in the game. Eastern Michigan senior guard Ryan Coleman, who led all scorers with 19 points, started the rally by drilling a 3-pointer. Soon enough, the Eagles were rolling, taking a 39-33 lead with seven unanswered points.
Freshman Ta’Shia Walker tried to get the Wolverines (3-4) back on track with a post-up bucket in the paint, but Eastern Michigan quickly responded by rattling off an 11-0 run and putting Michigan squarely in its rearview mirror.
“I was running out of timeouts,” Burnett said. “I thought their preparation was excellent against some of the things we do defensively. And that’s just some great coaching and great preparation. We tried to change up what we were doing defensively, but they just scored some easy buckets.”
All game long, Michigan looked befuddled by Eastern Michigan’s 2-3 zone defense. But the Wolverines’ offensive woes were most glaring during a four-and-a-half-minute scoring drought midway through the second half.
“We were running down the shot clock,” freshman Katie Dierdorf said. “We started to play in their rhythm instead of ours.”
With 7:37 to go in the game, freshman Krista Clement finally ended the Eagles’ run with one of her four 3-pointers. But Coleman responded by drilling triples on consecutive trips down the floor and burying the Wolverines with a 56-39 lead.
Michigan finally got going offensively in the game’s final minutes. Senior Tabitha Pool, who had been relatively quiet offensively all night, exploded for eight points in less than two minutes. Meanwhile, Dierdorf had her most impressive offensive performance of her young career, scoring seven points in the last 2:20, contributing to a career-high total of 11.
“I wanted to bring intensity to the game,” Dierdorf said. “And on both ends, the game started to slow down a bit for me. We decided to go into a press, so defensively, it kind of got my adrenaline going. I really wanted to make things happen, and I wanted to win.”
While Michigan’s offense found its rhythm late in the game, the Eagles didn’t let a comeback materialize. Every time the Wolverines made a late run, Eastern Michigan struck back with a momentum-stifling basket. Eastern Michigan shot the Crisler Arena lights out in the second half, making 13 of its 22 shots.
While both teams lit it up offensively at the end of the game, the first half was, at times, an offensive nightmare. Michigan looked especially uncomfortable with the basketball early on, making just two of its first 14 shots and committing 13 first-half turnovers.
But the Wolverines stayed within striking distance, and with less than two minutes to go in the first half, they made their move. Pool banked in a 15-footer and Clement downed two 3-pointers, sending Michigan into half time with a 25-23 lead. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, that’s as large as their lead would get. The Eagles took the lead for good with 15:25 to play and never trailed again.