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Losing Ugly

March 6, 2012

A season marked by gutsy but ugly wins, was ended by a gutsy but ugly loss.

Last Wednesday, with 1.8 seconds on the clock Darrell Lampley dropped in a lay-up to secure a 54-53 Eastern Michigan victory over Western Michigan.  That victory, and that dramatic lay-up marked two distinctly different points in the 2011-2012 Eagles basketball season.  It marked the moment EMU won the MAC West title, their first since the two division split, a fine accomplishment which the entire team and coaching staff should be proud of.  But sadly, the winning bucket by Lampley was the final push by this team.  After that emotional win, the Eagles were spent.

Last night, a lackluster first half of basketball doomed the Eagles to a hole they could not climb out of.  To give Northern Illinois credit, the Huskies (a 4-25 team), managed to counter each punch the Eagles threw at them in the second half.  By the time Eastern woke up, it was too late.  The Huskies believed they could win.

Darrell Lampley made crucial mistakes, but he did lead the comeback, especially a stretch of four minutes in the second half when he scored seven points, had an assist and a steal.  But in the end the load he was asked to carry this season was too much of a burden.  Antonio Green, J.R. Sims, and Quintin Dailey combined to shoot 3-11 from the floor.  Lamp shot an abysmal 3-12, although he did score six points from the free throw line.  The standout performance of the night was from Jamell Harris, who ate up an undersized NIU frontcourt with 13 points and 8 boards.  In the end, however, our anemic offense could not get the job done.

The numbers don’t lie.  13% field goal percentage in the first half.  6-23 from behind the arc.  Meanwhile, NIU shot 49% from the floor—our usually stellar defense allowed the Huskies just enough room to make one crucial three after another.

But the number that stood out the most to me was 843.  This was the attendance for the game last night.  A scrappy team that was picked to finish last wins the MAC West, hosts a tournament game, and all we can draw is 843!?  People say fans will come back when Eastern starts winning.  I wonder if that is true, and if so to what extent?  1,500?  Is that a realistic number?  Is that a number to be proud of?

I don’t know what the answer is.  I love our student section, the students that are there are fantastic.  But the most I ever count in the student section is 50.  When I was at Eastern, I could walk from my dorm room at Walton Hall to Bowen Field House.  I understand students can’t do that now.  But something has to be done to get more students to the games.

As for this year’s team and last night’s game, as disappointing as the loss was, I can’t help but have good feelings about the 2011-2012 Eagles.  They maximized their potential and then some.  The future of the program also looks bright.  The question is will anyone be there to see it?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. HuronBoy permalink
    March 6, 2012 11:14 am

    It will take time – more than 15 years of losing in basketball (and 20+) in football cannot be overcome in one season. I am more disappointed with the University’s lack of marketing efforts – I’m tired of seeing CMU and WMU stuff across the state, without a stitch of EMU clothing to be found. Why are we stuck with WEMU as the only media outlet (and given the choice I’m sure they wouldn’t even air the games at all)? Our sister MAC schools have multiple media outlets and a wide distribution of clothing and apparel across Michigan. Hell I have to listen to Toledo basketball on a Detroit station – WTF?

    Sorry for this rant, but this is directly related to your comments re: attendance. As our teams (hopefully) improve, now is the time to make a change.

  2. Mark H. permalink
    March 6, 2012 11:43 am

    Thanks for this good report on last night’s game. Such a disappointment!

    Your points on attendance are telling. Building the Convo was predicted by some to be a dealer breaker for student attendance, and it has assured that every game, no matter the numbers there, takes place in an arena that feels empty. Bowen could feel crowded, and a crowd at a game is a good feeling.

    There is no realistic way to build attendance: many students are NOT sports fans, and many who are prefer watching ESPN for a game that much of the world of sports fans will care about, rather than a MAC game that even most in the MAC don’t care about.

    Sad facts, but facts just the same.

  3. March 6, 2012 1:04 pm

    I thought the Northern Illinois frontcourt couldn’t really match up with EMU. Whenever the Eagles went aggressively inside to Harris and Balkema, and to a lesser extent to Janton, they forced the Huskies to either double-team and leave a perimeter shooter open or to foul. I think if EMU had been more patient offensively, and gotten the ball inside more, especially early in the game, we would have seen a very different outcome.

    Honestly, the offense looked bad all year, and I don’t just mean the shooting. I felt like there was never any real offensive strategy in place. They just dribbled/passed up the court, passed the ball around the outside of the arc, and then eventually jacked up a three-point shot or Lampley would drive and try to put up a shot. It seemed like we hardly ever saw even a simple drive-and-dish or inside-out play, and there was little motion until Lampley started a drive (and then it seemed like he always tried to finish by himself).

    This team had a defense that any team should be happy to have. Next year, I’d like to see more of an attempt to run an offense.

  4. March 6, 2012 2:17 pm

    Maybe I wasn’t too far off the mark when I thought that Lampley looked tired when he was taking his last trip to the free throw line. Green looked defeated when he fouled out. Even the dunk in the first half by Harris didn’t seem to light a fire under the team. I was hoping that when I took a picture of the scoreboard at the half, I would have a picture of when the team came back but sadly that wasn’t to be. It seemed like every three pointer that NIU was taking would go in and Eastern’s would just bounce aimlessly off the rim or miss the basket entirely. Maybe I’m being biased but it seemed like the Refs weren’t helping things much either.

    That being said, I think the team accomplished alot this season. They were picked last in the MAC, they had open tryouts and a new coach. It didn’t seem like they had a big guy they could count on. However, I think they will be in a much better position next season. The team is pretty young for the most part, so we’ll see.

    As for the attendance at the game, that seems to be a pretty common thread around these parts.

  5. Kenneth Barna permalink
    March 6, 2012 3:10 pm

    Dear Friends,
    It is just going to take time to reverse the damage that has been done by previous administrators and coaches over the last fifteen years or so. Eastern has to keep moving in a positive way, and with continued winning, will get more positive results in in attendance, and better coverage by the media.
    What is the distance from where the dorms are located to Rynearson, or the Convocation Center? Maybe a mile. If, that is too far to walk, what about having busses shuttle students back and forth? The university could do more to make it easier for students to attend games. By the way, as I have said before, people want to see winners. Check the box scores of Western’s last home game 1,000 in attendance. Central’s was closer to Eastern’s 823. Both schools have losing records, and Western was picked to win the MAC West this year!
    On top of all of that, when the Detroit media outlets don’t even report scores, let alone interviews, for MAC schools, most people only hear about U-M or MSU. I can’t tell you of the arrogance I have been met with, when after writing or talking to various sportscasters to just ask them to report Eastern’s scores. You would think I didn’t know what I was talking about, or worse, to whom I was talking. That will only change with consistent winning, because they will continue to give coverage to the big boys even if they have losing seasons.

  6. larry martin permalink
    March 8, 2012 8:46 pm

    There were over 120 in the student section (+ the president) cheering loudly at the NIU game. The student section at the women’s game against Toledo (who brought about 800 fans – average age = 69) was very loud. My impression is that EMU has the best student section in the conference. I have gone to lots of away games in football and basketball in the conference but never seen a student section like that at homecoming against Western. Central does pretty well, but Miami and Akron are pitiful. (I counted 8 Toledo students in the student section at the EMU @ Toledo men’s basketball game.) It is true that the community and alumni do not support the teams at EMU, and that’s where our problem lies.

    • derek permalink
      March 8, 2012 10:24 pm

      As someone that went and graduated from EMU in the glory days of the 90’s, I agree that the support is lacking on all degrees. But I also saw this when the team played on campus in the early 90’s. But guess what? Winning fixed that, and winning will fix the stands again.


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