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Eastern Michigan Tops Bowling Green 56-51 in MAC Opener

The Eagles defense smothered Bowling Green and started off the MAC season on the right foot. The Falcons fought hard but poor shooting is hard to overcome.

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The Eastern Michigan Eagles manhandled the Bowling Green Falcons on Wednesday night at BGSU's Stroh Center with a stifling zone defense, and the Eagles began the 2014 Mid-American Conference basketball season with a 56-51 victory over the Falcons.

(Click link for box score)
Eastern Michigan
Bowling Green 23

EMU's defense was so intense that, for a large stretch during the middle of the game, BGSU could generate almost no offense outside of free throws. After Richaun Holmes threw down his second dunk of the game with 6:33 left in the first half, the Falcons sank only two field goals for the next 14 minutes of game action. They scored on an Anthony Henderson layup at the 4:53 mark of the first half, then didn't make another field goal until two minutes were gone in the second half -- a span of 6:45. After that layup by Spencer Parker, Bowling Green went another 5:36 before making another shot.

It's not like Eastern Michigan's offense was playing significantly better. If Bowling Green had been only a little better with its shot, it might have been able to pull out the game. EMU's biggest lead until the final two minutes was just nine points, and the game featured seven ties and seven lead changes. Unfortunately for the Falcons, just like against IPFW, when push came to shove they could not sink necessary baskets when they were needed the most.

Of course, the game was intensely physical, especially in the paint. There were 47 total fouls, and that number ought to tell you something when I also say that the game was called very loosely. Had the officials really wanted to, they could have created a virtual parade of free throw shooters.

The most physical moment, without a doubt, came with 13 minutes left in the game. Spencer Parker missed a jump shot, and EMU rebounded. BGSU pressure up the floor created a possible turnover opportunity, and a rough scramble for the ball ensued. BGSU's J.D. Tisdale and EMU's Jalen Ross ended up on the floor, and Tisdale appeared to step over Ross when he got up. Ross took exception to this and hit Tisdale below the belt. This caused a brief skirmish between the teams that had to be broken up by officials, and after a brief delay, three technical fouls were assessed. Both Tisdale and Ross earned technicals, and EMU's Glenn Bryant was assessed one for leaving the bench area. The game concluded without further incident.

Bowling Green made just 30.8 percent of their shots and only 26.9% (7-for-26) in the first half. This includes just three makes in 16 tries for three-point range. The Falcons were not very good from the free throw line, either, as they made just 16 of 28 shots from the charity stripe (57.1%). Holmes led this difficulty as he was just 7-for-13 on free throw attempts, and he missed both of the attempts following the technical fouls noted above.

Eastern Michigan was better, but not by a big margin. The Eagles made just 34.7% (17-for-49) of their shots and were just 1-for-7 from long range. However, they were much better at the free throw line and sank 70% (21-for-30) of those attempts.

The Falcons won the rebounding battle 38-37 but gave up 16 turnovers compared to only 12 for EMU.

Mike Talley led the Eagles with 14 points. He was 6-for-8 from the free throw line and committed just one turnover. Karrington Ward added 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Bryant came closest to a double-double, as he posted nine points and eight rebounds. Meanwhile, shot-blocker extraordinaire Da'Shonte Riley had three blocks, all in the first half. However, he got into foul trouble and was not able to be nearly as much of a force in the second half.

Four players scored in double figures for Bowling Green, and that group was led by Holmes, who scored 17. Holmes also brought down seven rebounds and added two blocks to his own impressive total. Spencer Parker and Anthony Henderson each had ten points and six rebounds, while Jehvon Clarke scored 11. Unfortunately for BGSU, Clarke needed 18 shots to get those 11 points, and he also committed five turnovers. Also of note was the fact that Bowling Green's bench did not contribute a single field goal and only one total point in 31 combined minutes of action.

Eastern Michigan improves to 8-5 overall and 1-0 in MAC play. They will travel to Buffalo for a game on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. before returning home to face Western Michigan next Tuesday night.

Bowling Green falls to 6-8 overall and 0-1 in the MAC thanks to this loss. They will play again at the Stroh on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. when they host Northern Illinois. They continue their stretch of home games next Wednesday against Central Michigan before finally playing a road MAC game against Western Michigan on Jan. 19th.