Women's Basketball: EMU and "The Temple Game"

Could Temple's Kristen McCarthy be to blame for AnnMarie Gilbert's demise?

Matt may have passed off the primary follow-up responsibilities for this Eastern Michigan violation story to some bamboo-munching, Panama-Jack-shorts-wearing impostor who think's he's just so funny, but I thought I'd do a little follow-up of my own anyway.

During their investigation of the women's basketball program and their impermissible activities, including the specific violation of "over 20 hours a week on basketball activities," the EMU compliance office stumbled across one moment that seemed to stick in the mind of every single player on the team - referred to by them as "the Temple game."

What exactly was this game that made it so memorable? Let's take a closer look.

It was two days before Thanksgiving in 2009, and the Eastern Michigan basketball team had gotten off to a solid start. They had won their first four games of the season by an average score of 77-54, which may have been against pretty inferior competition, but was still impressive given that they had played three of those four games on the road.

Tuesday, November 24th found the team in game three of a road trip that saw them play three games in six days and travel a total of 1,353 miles from Ypsilanti east to Albany, then back West across New York to Buffalo, then back the other direction to Temple. (We can discuss the flawed logic used by the schedule makers later.) The team would face one more 575 mile trip back to campus after this game to get a break for the holiday before facing Missouri State at home that Sunday - no doubt a road-weary team by the time they arrived in Philadelphia.

Given that information, it should come as no surprise that the team came out flat - Temple opened the game on a 14-3 run as the Eagles missed 19 of their first 22 shots. Guard Cassie Schrock was the only player to hit double-digits in points, and that was largely because she made it to the free throw line nine times. The other four players to crack 20 minutes of playing time for the night (including Tavelyn James) combined to shoot 7-for-38 from the field.

They were outrebounded (45-38), didn't defend the perimeter (allowed 7 of 10 threes), and were never really in it as Temple eventually put them away 64-46. I should mention this was a game they may well have lost anyways - Temple that year featured a peaking Kristen McCarthy who would set Temple's single-game scoring record with 42 points later that season. They also came thisclose to winning the A-10 tournament over a Xavier team that bulldozed all the way to the brink of an Elite Eight upset of top-seeded Stanford. A bit circuitous I know, but my point is that this Temple squad was good enough that it would have been a battle to beat them at home on a week's rest, let alone at the tail end of a long road trip.

The real news, of course, is that Coach AnnMarie Gilbert made the team stay behind after the game watching film (of that very same game) for anywhere from one to three hours depending on which player you ask, all while making them take notes.

Let's recap that. A team that was on the last leg of a three-games-in-six-days, 1,900-mile round trip journey right before the Thanksgiving holiday came out flat against their first strong opponent of the season, and their coach made them stay after the game to watch film and take notes on their performance. Clearly whatever Coach Gilberts did must have resonated, because this was a team that won ten of their next twelve games, with one of those losses coming on the road against Notre Dame.

As far as I'm concerned, that doesn't make what she did alright. Your team played poorly, but odds are decent it was at least partly (if not largely) because they were burnt out and ready for the break that was right on the horizon. Making them wait even longer for that break so they can sit and watch blow-by-blow film of all the stuff they just did wrong not even an hour ago is the kind of "whack your fingers with a ruler" authoritarian nonsense that will get your team to turn on you in a hurry.

The more I investigate, the less I like.

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