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EMU v Michigan State preview & open thread

November 27, 2011

While we’ve all been traveling to visit family, filling up on Turkey, and grousing about the EMU football team, the EMU men’s basketball team has quietly gone on a three*-game winning streak.

We talked about the game a week ago against Arkansas-Little Rock. Sunday, the Eagles followed that up with a road win at IUPUI. The Eagles were in control for most of the first half, leading by as much as ten points (12-2 seven minutes in and 16-6 after twelve minutes) but were never able to press their advantage, and the Jaguars came back to tie the game shortly before halftime. The second half was a dogfight, with 11 ties and 12 lead changes, and neither team taking more than a four point lead until the final seconds. Darrell Lampley and Antonio Green hit critical free throws with just over a minute remaining to put the Eagles up three, and a Lampley pass to Kamil Janton for a layup forced IUPUI to foul to stop the clock. Lampley hit both free throws, giving  the Eagles a four-point lead before the Jaguars made a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Wednesday night, Thanksgiving eve, the Eagles hosted Rochester College. As is to be expected in a game like this, the Eagles had little trouble with the Warriors, scoring first and never looking  back.

[*Rochester College just moved up to the NAIA. I hate seeing games like that as part of the regular season, and I tend to eventually drop them out of comparisons when possible.]

Last year, EMU traveled to the Breslin Center to tip off the season. It was an up-tempo, 90-possession game, in which the Spartans out-shot the Eagles by about 20%. Here’s what I wrote about it:

By my count [Brandon Bowdry] hit a double-double with 11:28 remaining in the game. Piling up 32 points and 15 rebounds on the #2 team in the country is pretty good. From what I see, he set a career-high in points (previous high was 26, which he’d hit thrice), and tied his career-high in rebounds (which he’d also hit thrice previously)…Michigan State outplayed EMU in pretty much every statistical category. The biggest differences were in field-goal and free-throw shooting percentage. The Spartans outshot the Eagles 52.5% to 31.6% in field goals and 66.7% to 38.9% in free throws….The Eagles really don’t have a lot of size, but either Balkema or Janton has got to step up and provide more of an inside presence. When your centers combine for 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 6 fouls in 20 minutes played, you’ve got a problem…This will be the toughest game they play this year, at least in the regular season.

So that was last year.

This year, Michigan State comes to Ypsilanti, and they come into the game with the lesser record (3-2), but as even casual observers know, the record is only part of the story, particularly early in the season for Michigan State. Tom Izzo has a reputation for putting together one of the toughest schedules in the country, year after year (on the theory that a tough non-conference schedule does a better job of preparing the team for tournament play) , and this year has been no exception. The Spartans opened the season with neutral-site losses to #1 North Carolina (on an aircraft carrier! ZOMG!) and #6 Duke.

The Spartans and Eagles have two common opponents, Texas Southern and Arkansas-Little Rock. EMU lost at Texas Southern 66-49 when the Tigers got hot from behind the arc, while Michigan State defeated them 76-41. Both teams beat Arkansas-Little Rock, EMU 62-51 and Michigan State 76-41.

Like last year, this figures to be a bad mismatch for EMU. It’s probably not the toughest game of the season (that will most likely be Syracuse), but it’s way up there, and the Eagles’ short rotation doesn’t help matters any. Personally, I’ll be approaching it in much the same way I approach exhibition games: it’s not the final score, but how the team plays that really matters. I don’t expect a win — I don’t think anyone really does — but I do expect to see EMU play hard, particularly on defense, and show some good teamwork on offense.

If you’re still out of town for the holiday or otherwise unable to make it to the game, there are several ways you can follow it:

  • The game will be televised on ESPNU. By now you should know whether you get that channel, and if so, where it is in your lineup, since that’s how Friday’s football game was televised also.
  • If you don’t get ESPNU, you should be able to watch online at the aptly named Watch ESPN.
  • If that doesn’t work for you, who knows but that there might be a MAC-cast. It’s worth a try, anyway, but I’ll guess not.
  • You can also listen to the game on WEMU, 89.1 FM. Away from Ypsilanti, you can also listen online at WEMU.org.
  • If you’re not down with the whole experiencing it yourself thing, there’ll be a tweetcast; follow @EMUhoops and of course I’ll add occasional comments from @EagleTotemBlog.

You can also talk about it here. The usual open thread rules apply (no spam, off-topic comments are fine, start as early as you want).

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