The feathers will be flying as MAC play opens up Wednesday with Eastern Michigan making the 70-mile trip to Bowling Green to face the Falcons. In recent years, these games have been competitive snore fests, with average scores in the 40s and 50s. With the Eagles (8-5) having braved a brutal non-conference schedule, they are the clear favorite in Wednesday night’s game.
Bowling Green comes in with a 6-7 record after consecutive losses to Wright State and IPFW. This game is the second of a four game home stand for the Falcons, where they are 5-3 on the year. The Falcons are led by Richaun Holmes (14.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.1 BPG) and Spencer Parker (13 PPG, 4.7 RPG).
The 6’8" forward Holmes has been impressive this season for the Falcons by leading them on both ends of the floor. Besides not being a bona fide rim-stuffer like his counterpart DaShonte Riley for the Eagles (3.17 BPG), he put up some of his best numbers against strong competition. Holmes had five blocks in an overtime loss to Xavier on December 7. Holmes will have to fill his stat sheet against the Eagles, going up against athletic forwards Glenn Bryant (10.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.3 BPG) and Karrington Ward. Holmes’ impressive block party numbers will be put to the test against a team with size and 8th in the nation in blocks (6.83 BPG) themselves.
Spencer Parker has been a big lift for Louis Orr and the Falcons this season. After only averaging 5.8 minutes per game in 15 games as a freshman, Parker has contributed 13 points per game and averages 34 minutes on the floor each night. Like Holmes, Parker will have to step up defensively to slow down the athletic forwards of Eastern Michigan.
While this is certainly not the most winnable game coming up for the Falcons, a win over a promising Eagles squad would be key for Louis Orr's future in Bowling Green. Orr is in the final year of his contract, and would be well served to have a hot start to conference play to avoid the dreaded lame duck coach situation.
Eastern Michigan is looking to take a major step forward this season, after a disappointing performance in MAC play last season. Rob Murphy lead the Eagles to a MAC West title in his first season in Ypsilanti, but a team with talent and promise struggled down the stretch and finished with a disappointing 7-9 conference record. The additions of Ward (14.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG) and Mike Talley (9.0 PPG) have been fruitful for Eastern, as they have given Murphy desperately needed production in the scoring department. The Eagles 2-3 zone has given Bowling Green fits in the past two seasons, with the Falcons tallying a total of 96 points in the two matchups between the two schools with a Murphy coached EMU team.
The game appears to be a mismatch based on the suffocating 2-3 zone of the Eagles coupled with athletic scorers on the wing and in the backcourt. However, the one Achilles’ heel of Rob Murphy’s teams since he arrived in Ypsi are a lack of scoring and being terrible on the road. Coming into the 2013-14 campaign, Murphy’s Eagles were a combined 7-27 on the road. This year, the Eagles are again only 1-4 on the road, with their lone win being in overtime against a 6-11 Oakland team. However, Oakland had won 62 of their last 70 in their gym when Eastern left with a victory. Additionally, their road losses have all come against prime competition (Purdue, Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse). Furthermore, their scoring is up, averaging 69.8 points per game (up from 57 in 2012-13, and 53 in 2011-12).
If this Eagles team wants to prove that it is real, they will have to take care of business at the Stroh Center on Wednesday night.