Eastern Michigan 110, Marygrove 31: This Game Shouldn't Have Happened

If one attempted to write up a game preview of Eastern Michigan's home opener against Marygrove College, it'd have been an exercise in scrutinizing nihilism. We knew that EMU had a strong returning case, a candidate for MAC POY, the only player in Division I basketball (men's or women's) to net 40 points in a single game, and their compeition was an NAIA Division II team with very little size and finished 3-21 last year. Honestly — how do you size up two teams like this?

You don't. And it doesn't work on the court either. The final score was 110-31. The halftime score was 72-7. After the first 11 minutes it was 41-0. Marygrove had about 25 turnovers and six attempted shots.

It was a live stats window that I simply could not close or tab away from. The sheer atrocity and enigma that was this basketball game could not escape me. Why did they schedule it?

It's not a matter of running up the score, or at least I don't think it is — although EMU was benevolent enough to curb Tavelyn James' minutes in the second half after totaling 32 points in 16 minutes. But that's kind of the point, actually. Let this sink in: Marygrove in 40 minutes could not outscore Tavelyn James' in 16. It's not a matter of blowing a team out for the sake of blowing them out. There are just certain teams that you don't place on the same court for the purposes of competitive basketball — and this was one of them.

Maybe they didn't know that going into the game; it'd be a tune-up game for the Eagles, while for Marygrove it'd be the thrill of a lifetime to play a greater team with the chance of an upset. But while the halftime pace did not lend itself to a 144-14 final, EMU did outscore the Mustangs even with their team coasting in first gear, 38-24.

In the sport of curling, if a team is losing by an unwinnable margin in the second half of the game, they have the right to concede, shake hands with the opposition and rest up for the next game. It's a gesture of sportsmanship. Nobody wants to pad stats in "garbage time," or watch it happen. A 65-point lead is just not going to be blown and everybody knows it. This isn't just recreational leagues; they do this in world competition and Olympic matches. They oughta allow this to happen in nuclear situations such as an ugly D1-NAIA game.

It oughta be able to happen in other games, too. It does make sense that calling a game with, say, five minutes left. Can the losing team agree to freeze the score and be done with it? What is to be gained from finishing out the clock, or lost from scooting home a tad early? You can put backups into the game, but that's essentially my point: the sport has officially/unofficially become a noncompetitive farce; you're just biding time until you can hit the showers and talk to reporters. You're not evaluating your backups any better than you would in full-speed scrimmage. There's probably advertising/broadcasting revenue to be lost if they called games before the clock hits 0:00, but it seems like a reasonable idea that may be able to avert some really embarassing finishes such as this one.

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