The last time the Eagles scored 89 points in a game against a Division I team was a 97-89 double overtime loss to the University of Akron in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, March 11, 2010. That was EMU's final game before Murphy took over the men's basketball program. In 40 minutes of regulation, the last time the Green and White reached the mark was an 89-76 victory over the University at Buffalo, Jan. 26, 2007.
In the loss, Oakland (0-2) was paced by sharpshooter Max Hooper. He scored all 18 of his points in the second half on six three-pointers. Kahlil Felder and Tommie McCune recorded 15 points apiece, followed by 13 from Corey Petros to round out the double-digit scoring for the Golden Grizzlies. Petros posted 10 rebounds to secure his double-double, and Felder tallied a team-best nine assists.
Long-time head coach Greg Kampe's Golden Grizzlies attempted the same amount of shots as the Eagles, but made three less by going 27-of-61 (44.3 percent). OU went 9-of-24 from beyond the arc, including 7-of-15 in the second half, to try and keep pace with Eastern. From the line, Oakland converted at a 60.9 percent rate (14-of-23).
Anali Okoloji got the Eagles off on the right foot with his team's first five points of the game. The graduate student started with a hard drive to the bucket before the Golden Grizzlies split a pair at the charity stripe. On the next possession down the floor, Ward found Okolji on the wing for the successful triple and four-point lead. Following his teammates five points, Ward added five of his own to give EMU a 10-7 advantage with 13:56 remaining in the first half.
Eastern doubled its lead with the help of an aggressive 2-3 zone. The solid zone defense, accompanied with a pair of threes by Jodan Price, sparked a 10-0 run to increase the margin to a dozen points, 23-11. The point differential remained that way after a thunderous baseline slam by Lee that brought the home crowd to its feet. However, the Golden Grizzlies responded with 11 of the game's next 15 points, cutting the EMU lead to five, 32-27.
The Eagles increased their cushion to nine, but it quickly shrank after a four-minute drought without a field goal. The Golden Grizzlies clawed their way back to within two, and a Talley free throw gave EMU a 39-36 at the half.
Both teams put together solid shooting performances in the first half with the Green and White sinking 13-of-38 field goals (46.4 percent) compared to a 43.8 percent clip (14-of-32) for Oakland. The difference came at the free throw line and long distance. The Eagles made 8-of-10 from the charity stripe and 5-of-11 from beyond arc. Meanwhile, OU converted just 2-of-9 from long range to go along with 6-of-11 free throws. Lee's 10 points paced the Eagles in the opening half, while Ward added seven points and six rebounds. The Golden Grizzlies outscored Eastern 24-10 in the paint and got 11 points each from Felder and McCune.
Just three minutes into the second half, Oakland took its first lead of the contest with a triple from Max Hooper. The margin grew to six before consecutive put-backs by Ward brought the deficit to two. EMU continued to attack the offensive glass as Olalekan Ajayi's rebounds led to a bucket down low by Talley, knotting the contest at 51-51 with 14:12 to go.
Trailing by a bucket, a pair of powerful slams gave the Eagles the lead back. First, Lee found Ajayi down low for a two-handed dunk to tie the game. On the ensuing OU possession, Talley stole the ball in the backcourt and dished to a racing Ward, who used a tomahawk to give his team the lead and bring the Eastern crowd to its feet.
Hooper kept Oakland within striking distance, hitting his fifth three of the half on just six tries to make it a one-point game. Nonetheless, Lee nailed a trey from the top of the key and followed with a fastbreak jumper to make it 67-61. Once again, the Golden Grizzlies answered with a pair of free throws and another Hooper three to cut the margin to one and force Coach Murphy to call a timeout at the 6:28 mark of the second half.
The timeout seemed to pay off as EMU embarked on a 7-0 run that was capped off by another emphatic slam by Ward. The advantage only escalated and another Ward dunk brought the lead to a dozen as the game ended, 89-77, in favor of the Green and White.
The Eagles will remain on the home floor for a trio of games this weekend as hosts of the EMU Showcase, Nov. 21-23. Eastern will face the Penguins of Youngstown State University on Friday, Nov. 21, before battling UNC-Greensboro the following day, Nov. 22, with both contests tipping off at 7 p.m. The Green and White will finish off the weekend against Longwood, Nov. 23, at 2:30 p.m. from the Convocation Center.