YPSILANTI, Mich.— Eastern Michigan Eagles secured their first 2014-15 victory in Mid-American Conference action Saturday, topping Northern Illinois University in a 54-46 decision at the Convocation Center. With the win, Eastern snaps a three-game losing skid and advances to 12-5 (1-3 MAC), while the Huskies fall to 7-8 (1-3 MAC).
Raven Lee led all players with 24 points, and was the only Eagle to notch double-figure scoring. The Detroit, Mich. native shot 58.3 percent from the field (7-of-12), and was nearly flawless from the free throw line after going 7-of-8 from the charity stripe.
The pair of Karrington Ward and Brandon Nazione led the team on the boards, grabbing nine and eight rebounds, respectively.
The victory also marked a milestone for a member of the EMU squad, as Mike Talley recorded the 1,000th point of his collegiate career. The redshirt-senior scored 453 points in his two years at Duquesne, and has posted 548 points as an Eagle thus far for a grand total of 1,001 points. Talley chipped in seven points for the Green and White while also dishing out two assists and grabbing two steals in the win.
Aaric Armstead paced the Huskies with 15 points, while Marin Maric added 10 points off the bench.
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The EMU zone defense held Northern Illinois to just 15-of-41 (36.5%) from the field, including 4-of-14 from beyond the arc. The Eagles also forced 17 turnovers, converting them into 26 points.
Stingy defense resulted in a trio of steals to open up the contest, but the Green and White did not find a basket until two minutes into the first half when Lee sank a pair of free throws to give the Eagles a slight 2-0 advantage. The two teams traded baskets to increase the game to an 8-8 tie, with Lee and Anali Okoloji posting four points each to pace the EMU offense.
Scoring on both sides was stifled for three and a half minutes, with the Huskies and the Eagles hitting just one free throw apiece in that span until Tim Bond cut in for an and-one to put the Green and White up 12-9 with 10:48 remaining in the half. However, Northern Ilinois quickly retaliated as Anthony Johnson hit a trey to knot the score once more, 12-12.
The Huskies claimed a three-point lead after another shot from beyond the arc, as Aaron Armstead put NIU on the leading side of a 17-14 edge. Eastern chipped away at the deficit steadily, but the Huskies continued to put up points to keep the slight advantage as Eastern trailed 21-18 with five minutes to play in the half.
Lee equalized the score once more as he faked a pass inside and drilled a three-pointer, forcing NIU to call a timeout with 3:25 left on the clock. The timeout did not pay off for the Huskies, as Lee nabbed the ball from Travon Baker and scored with a two-handed throw-down to give the Eagles their first lead in over seven minutes, 23-21.
Eastern continued to build its lead with a pair of free throws from Ward and an inside jumper by Bond, while the team kept the Huskies to just three points for the remainder of the half. Going into the locker room, EMU held on to a slight 27-24 advantage.
Eastern shot just 38.1 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from three-point range, but the team was solid in free throw shooting as it made 10-of-13 attempts. The Eagles dominated on defense, posting eight steals and three blocks compared to just one swipe and one rejection for the Huskies.
Talley opened up scoring for the second half with a steal and a layup, and the Eagles extended the lead to seven points as Lee scrambled through the NIU defense to chip in a shot off the glass, putting the Green and White up 31-24 with 17:26 to play. Though the pace of the game slowed once more, Lee came through with a shot clock buzzer-beating three to keep the Eagles in the lead, 35-25. The Detroit, Mich. native sank another long shot a minute later to make it 40-31 with 12:02 remaining.
NIU got within three points of the Eagles with a minute to play and Eastern holding on to a 49-46 edge. EMU found its first field goal in over 10 minutes when Jerome Hunter tipped the ball in for a pair of points, giving the team a 51-46 lead with 46 seconds remaining in the contest.
Talley sealed the victory with a pair of free throws, bolstering the score to a 54-46 count with his work from the charity stripe as he surpassed the 1,000-point barrier for his career. The Huskies were unable to muster any more points as the clock ran down, and the Eagles picked up their first win of the 2015 MAC slate.
Eastern will hit the road Wednesday when it travels to Bowling Green to square off with the Falcons (7 p.m. ET). NIU hosts Miami Saturday (4 p.m. ET).