Eastern Michigan grabs their fourth MAC win of the season and back to a .500 record (12-12, 4-7) with a much-needed 71-56 win over Central Michigan (13-11, 6-5). James Thompson stayed completely out of foul trouble (sort of a surprise), and Central Michigan struggled in the one area that they're best known for (more of a surprise).
James Thompson had a great first half. Staying completely out of foul trouble, he was able to pick up 12 points and eight rebounds before the Eagles went into the locker room with a 15-point lead at halftime. A 72 percent free throw shooter coming into the game, Thompson made five of his six free throws. His 19-point, 15-rebound performance makes it his 15th double-double of his young career.
DaRohn Scott only saw eight minutes in the first half, but he had a huge block against Thompson going for a dunk a few minutes in the second half. Chippewas would hit a quick transition three by Rayshawn Simmons to make it a 9-point game. Talent and discipline showed though, but the worst that the Chippewas deficit was ever cut to was seven points in the second half.
For most of the game, Central Michigan has struggled behind the arc. Shooting 20 percent from deep as a team, only two makes from Josh Kozinski, 3-for-15 collectively from John Simons, Braylon Rayson and Simmons. The Chippewas moved the ball in and out of the high post with plenty of ball movement, but EMU stayed discipline in their usual zone, forcing CMU to get to get their scoring mostly in the paint (30).
"Any time you can hold Central to five 3-point makes... is a huge defensive effort," EMU head coach Rob Murphy said after the game. "I thought if we could play a good 40 minutes we'd get out of here with a victory and that's what happened."
Up until John Simons hit that 3-pointer, EMU went on an 11-3 run in about two minutes.— Alex Alvarado (@ARAlvarado13) February 10, 2016
After the loss at Buffalo, Murphy said he challenged Brandon Nazione to step up and be a bigger leader on the floor. He is a senior after all. "We look to him for leadership sometimes and when it's not there, we don't have it," Murphy said. "There's a lot of new faces in the program. But today I challenged him even when he was tired, I'm like, 'this is it for you, you're a senior.' I left him out there for 40 minutes today and he produced for 40 minutes tonight on both ends of the floor.
"Any time you can get that kind of production out of him and James together, more times than not you'll be on the winning side."
Nazione hit a 3-pointer early in the game had 16 points with 11 rebounds for his fourth career double-double, tied with Glenn Bryant and Justin Dobbins at 13th in school history.
"For the most part, we played, I don't want to say perfect game, but as good as you could play on both ends of the court, that's how we played tonight," Murphy said.