It was the first time since the 1999-2000 campaign that the Eagles have defeated a team from the Missouri Valley Conference. The then-Milton Barnes led Eastern Michigan squad dropped newlyadded to the MVC, Loyola Chicago, 68-64, on Dec. 3, 1999. It is also the first time that an EMU squad has recorded nine-or-more non-conference victories since the 1996-97 campaign.
Karrington Ward broke out of a shooting slump and led the Green and White with 18 points and nine rebounds on 7-of-13 from the floor. Raven Lee, meanwhile, connected on 5-of-9 shooting, including 4-for-7 from downtown to total 14 points. Mike Talley recorded 10 points off the bench, while Anali Okoloji poured in nine points, three assists and three steals.
Marcus Marshall led the Bears with 21 points, all of which came in the second half. Thurman and Camyn Boone each added 11 points, while Dorrian Williams dished out eight assists.
Eastern and MSU traded buckets back-and-forth until EMU went on a 6-0 run when Ward and Okoloji hit back-to-back three-pointers, extending the Eagle lead to eight, 26-18. Talley pushed the lead to nine by knocking down the second of a pair of free throws before a thunderous dunk from Ward gave Eastern its first double-figure lead of 11, 29-18, with 1:08 left.
Talley knocked down a step-back jumper to put EMU up by 12, 31-19, and it took that lead into halftime. The Eagles closed out the first half on an 11-1 run and did not allow an MSU field goal over the final 6:50 of the first half.
Eastern shot 44.4 percent from the floor on 12-of-27 shooting while knocking down five three-pointers, good for 41.7 percent. Ward led the Eagles with nine points and five rebounds, while Okoloji posted seven points and Jodan Price connected on a pair of three balls for six points.
The Green and White held the Bears to 6-of-30 (20%) from the floor, while Missouri State shot just 18.2 percent from downtown in the opening half. One of the most impressive stats in the opening 20 minutes is that the Eagles held MSU's Marshall scoreless. Marshall came into the contest averaged the sixth-most points in the country at 22.9 points per contest, but EMU forced him to go 0-for-5 from the floor in the first half.
Offense was on tap for both Eastern and Missouri State to open the second half. The Eagles and Bears traded two-point buckets on each of their first two trips down the floor. With a 12-point, 37-25, lead, Lee pulled up from nearly 25-feet and knocked down a triple before Ethan Alvano hit a long two-point jumper to give the Eastern a lead of 17 with just over 15 minutes remaining in regulation.
A continued back-and-forth game saw Eastern leading by as many as 18, but the Bears came back to cut into the Green and White's lead. Missouri State knocked down back-to-back mid-range jumpers to come within 14 with 11:35 left to go in the game. Eastern then responded with a 4-0 run of its own as Ajayi hit on a pair of free throws before MSU head coach Paul Lusk received a technical foul. Price then knocked down two from the charity stripe, putting the Eagles up 54-37.
Looking at a 55-39 deficit, the Bears came alive, knocking down four jumpers, including a pair of triples, on consecutive possessions to come back within six, 55-49, with just under eight minutes to go in the contest. That forced EMU head coach Rob Murphy to call a timeout. Out of the break, Lee knocked down a three-ball to silence the home crowd and push the lead back to nine. Eastern then held the Bears 0-for-6 from the floor over the next four minutes while Nazione went on a 4-0 run of his own. That extended EMU’s lead to 13, 66-53, before Boone hit the Bears' first bucket in eight attempts.
In the ensuing possession, Lee knocked down his fourth three-pointer of the contest to give Eastern a 69-55 lead, but on the other end of the floor, Marshall converted on a long three-pointer and was fouled in the process. Marshall completed the four-point play to bring MSU within 10, 69-59. Missouri State then went on a 6-0 run before Alvano responded with a pair of free throws, but Marshall came back on the other end with a pair of his own, keeping it at an eight point game, 71-63.
Talley put the Eagles back up by 10, 73-63, on a pair of free throws, with 1:48 remaining in the game. The Detroit, Mich. native then returned to the free throw line to convert on another set from the charity stripe, icing the game. A few late buckets saw the game end at a 77-65 mark in favor of the Eagles.
Eastern will hit the hardwood again Tuesday, Dec. 23, when the Eagles return to the Convocation Center to take on the Coppin State University Eagles. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Ypsilanti.