Price is finding himself
Leading up to the game, Jodan Price has been shooting 31 percent from 3-point range. But tonight, Price was 3-for-5 in that category, ending up being the the game's leading scorer with 11, with teammates Mike Talley and Karrington Ward put up nine and seven points respectively.
"We knew they were vulnerable," Price said after the game. "After they lost to [NJIT], we knew that it was going to be tougher than if they had won. We knew we had it coming, but we were locked in and ready to go."
A lot of preparation and mental toughness were key factors for Price leading up to this matchup. He recently talked to his father about how much he's struggling and how he needs to get back into the scoring threat that he felt like he could be.
"I've never really been in a slump like that in my life," Price said. "I have a little game with myself like the NCAA Tournament: if I make six in a row, then I'm a champion. Then I see how many in a row I can get from the same spot, to see how many championships I can win."
Head coach Rob Murphy said at the beginning of the year that Price might be the best 3-point shooter in the MAC. He said it before the season and he reiterated that in the post-game presser.
Something I regret to point out in the Q & A previews with Maize 'n Brew is that EMU is a damn good rebounding team. Saying that they're better than Michigan in that department isn't much of a far fetched statement. Coming into the game, EMU was 16th in the nation in rebounding, averaging 42.5 boards per game while Michigan was just north of 30.
Murphy talked about how important it was for everybody to key into their rebounding assignments at all times. He notes that Lekan Ajayi and Mike Samuels "made it tough to see the rim," Karrington Ward and Brandon Nazione helped out with battling for the boards down low, and the guards were able to grab the long rebounds. Ward and Nazione led the way with seven and six rebounds, respectively.
"We can play great zone, we can close out, we can contest, but we can't get the ball to the other end of the floor if we don't rebound," Murphy said.
What this win means for the program
If the Eagles don't win games in conference play, none of this will matter. No championships were won in Ann Arbor, just bragging rights and long-term confidence. But this was the first time since the 1997 season where EMU beat Michigan. That was a long time ago.
"This is a very good Michigan team... they were about 90 seconds away from being undefeated," Murphy noted. Without a key blocked shot against Villanova and a few tough shots knocked in by NJIT, he sees Michigan as a team that should be respected as one that came into the game 8-0 and not 6-2 like it'll say on paper.
I guess the same thing could be said about EMU.
What wasn't a long time ago when EMU came into the Crisler Center and lost by 39, when Murphy started building the foundation of the program to be where it's at today.
"I think we caught them at the right time, I think we're playing well at the right time, and we just want to keep building as we've been doing for the last three and a half years." Keeping the win over Purdue from a couple of years ago fresh in his mind, he feels that "this will be the next big win that should take us to the next level."
Ultimately, this game will mean very little in a few short weeks. One for fans to remember? Absolutely. But in the grand scheme of things, this win shows that EMU can play with the Big Ten teams, even if it was "just" a struggling Michigan team, who was coming off of a tough loss to NJIT.
Sloppy first half on both sides
Michigan got off to a 10-2 start after the first four and a half minutes, but the Eagles kept things close with their pestering 2-3 zone defense, disrupting passing lanes and getting the offensive boards while Michigan isn't (EMU: 7, UM: 0). Also, both teams were shooting in the neighborhood of 25 percent, which makes putting up 30 points a difficult task, let alone 20.
Michigan led 21-19 at halftime.
Next up: Michigan State
Now things are going to get extremely difficult for Eastern Michigan. Fans should enjoy the win. But one week from now, the Eagles will be in East Lansing to face off against Michigan State, possibly the best team they'll face all year.