The Eastern Michigan Eagles hoped to start 2016 like they ended 2015, but unfortunately that wasn't in the cards on Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center. The Atlantic Sun Conference favorites, North Florida, were in town to close out the Eagles' non-conference schedule and they certainly lived up to their nickname "The Birds of Trey."
North Florida hit 11-24 three-pointers to take down the Eagles 82-77 in a very entertaining contest. The Ospreys came into the game averaging 84 points per game while EMU averages 77 points per game, so really this outcome could have been projected. The Eagles had a chance to tie late, but couldn't get the job done and head into MAC play at 8-5.
Both offenses put on a show in the first half. The Eagles and Ospreys both got off to a hot start, as Eastern Michigan led 16-15 at the first media timeout. The teams were red-hot from beyond the arc as at one point in the first half EMU hit three straight 3-pointers from Willie Mangum, Jodan Price and Raven Lee. Those threes kept the Eagles up 31-28, as North Florida kept making tough shots.
The EMU lead was as high as six at 36-30 with five minutes left in the first half after two Brandon Nazione free throws. Two straight Osprey threes from Trent Mackey and Dallas Moore quickly closed that gap, and a minute later UNF regained their lead at 40-39 after a Chris Davenport tip-in.
The Eagles went into halftime down one at 46-45. The shooting statistics for both teams were remarkable, with UNF hitting 52 percent of their shots and 56 percent of their threes and EMU scoring on 55 percent and 42 percent in those same categories.
The second half started out as a game of runs. UNF opened the second half with a 5-0 run, but EMU answered with a 5-0 of their own. Again a quick 4-0 UNF run was matched by a 4-0 EMU run. Another UNF run, this time 6-0, sprung the Osprey lead to 61-54 with just under 12 minutes to play. The Eagles weren't dead yet though, as back-to-back Ty Toney threes sparked a 10-4 run bringing EMU back to that all-familiar one-point deficit.
After more back and forth a Toney jumper nodded the score at 75. On EMU's next possession, they finally broke into the lead on a Thompson layup. That lead was short-lived, as Beech drilled a three and Davenport hit a nice jump hook on the next two possessions to give the Ospreys an 80-77 lead.
After the Davenport bucket, Eastern had the ball with a chance to tie. James Thompson threw a pass at the top of the key to Mangum, but Mangum took his eyes off the ball and it slipped through his hands going out of bounds.
EMU then fouled Demarcus Daniels, but he missed the front end of the one-and-one. With 15 seconds to go EMU set up for what would ultimately be their final possession. Nazione drove and had a good look at a layup, but passed the ball out to Mangum who missed the three to tie. Beech gobbled up the defensive rebound at threw it to Moore who laid it in as time expired.
North Florida (11-6) was lead by Beech who poured in 23 on 8-16 shooting. Davenport and Daniels had 15 each while Moore followed them up with 14. Davenport came away with a huge day, as he was just three assists away from a triple double.
Six players ended up in double figures for the Eagles, including Thompson (18), Lee (15), Toney (13), Mangum (11) and Price and Nazione (10 each). No one else scored, which is a little troubling that all of the offense ran through just six players.
The Eagles open MAC play on Wednesday at Central Michigan before hitting the road again on Saturday at Northern Illinois. Those two games will certainly be telling as to if the Eagles will be contenders in the MAC this year.
|Player||Eastern Michigan||North Florida|
|Points||J. Thompson (18)||B. Beech (23)|
|Rebounds||B. Nazione (10)||C. Davenport (10)|
|Assists||W. Mangum (4)||C. Davenport (7)|
|Blocks||J. Thompson (1)||Four tied (1)|
|Steals||R. Lee (4)||A. Bodager (2)|