It has been said that learning through experience is the best way to acquire the knowledge one needs to succeed in the future. EMU Head Coach Rob Murphy had his educational experience last night. In what ranks as one of the more dramatic games this writer has seen in his almost twenty years of watching EMU hoops, the upstart Eagles managed to break the Broncos just in the nick of time to pull out an improbable and important early season MAC victory over rival Western Michigan. But not without a true learning moment for Rob Murphy…
After the Eagles had being held at arms length by Western Michigan for most of the game, EMU Senior guard Antonio Green did what so many of us have been waiting for his entire EMU career: He nailed a clutch shot to seemingly give the Eagles a win. With 4.7 seconds left, a three point lead, and Western having to travel the length of the court, the stage was set for Basketball Strategy 101 to kick in and seal the game.
Without question, the proper play in the above scenario is to attempt to deny the inbound pass, and if that doesn’t work then you harass the point guard until he gets to mid-court. At that point…YOU FOUL HIM!!! Despite that fact that I was screaming for us to foul, I was able to check the clock when Western’s point guard crossed mid-court—1.8 seconds left. You foul him, he goes to the line and you force them to make the first free throw, miss the second, and get a put back. Much better alternative to leaving the Broncos’ best shooter open for three…
But hey, the team showed character and grit and bailed Murphy out, who surely would have had to answer for his lapse in strategerie. I say, all’s well that ends well. Murph can learn from this experience, we still pulled out the win, and the team may have grown into something bigger than most of us expected. As for the rest of the season—game on.
I want to come back to Antonio Green. What a clutch shot he made, along with two late free throws in OT to put Eastern up by four with 17 seconds to go. I’m always happy to see a senior (especially one who has paid his dues like Green) come up big in that kind of situation. I hope it instills confidence in him; if we are to make any kind of noise in the MAC this year, we need Green to become a real offensive weapon.
I have a few other notes I want to get into but I think I’ll wait another day for those. For now, it feels good to soak in this win. Our biggest football win of the season was over Western, and to date this one feels just as big as last Saturday’s Ball State win. Let’s enjoy it. At this precise moment, Eastern is a player in the MAC West. And who honestly thought that would happen?