The Eastern Michigan men’s basketball team opened their 2012-2013 season with a win in the Inaugural Ice Man Classic over Rochester College 66-52 Friday afternoon. The Eagles took the lead early and never looked back as they held the lead for the entire game to pick up their first win of the season.
EMU started the afternoon hanging their Mid American Conference west division champions banner and then ran away with the game despite sloppy turnovers. The bulk of the Eastern’s scoring came from the bench, with senior guard Derek Thompson leading the Eagles in scoring with 14 points shooting 4-of-6 from three point shots. Redshirt junior forward Daylen Harrison added 12 points along with freshman point guard Ray Lee coming off the bench scoring 12 points and seven assists in his first game.
Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy was impressed with Thompson accepting his new role as the sixth man.
“He has really played well enough in practice to be a star,” Murphy said. “He is really happy with his role and we really think he can win sixth man of the year this season.”
The defensive effort was led by senior center Matt Balkema with seven rebounds on the game and was a key player of Eastern’s defense. The basis of the Eagle’s play comes from their defense which is a 2-3 zone instead of the traditional man defense.
“We let up a couple corner threes which is the worst shot in basketball. This year our team is more offensively gifted than last year, but if you’re thinking too much about offense than you’re going to be a bad defensive player and if you’re a bad defensive player, I can’t play you,” Murphy said. “We got to work on stopping lobs and stopping people from getting into the high post, keeping your hands up, stay on your toes and just be active.”
The team’s biggest problem during the game was turnovers. Rochester had 23 points off Eagles turnovers and often turned them into break away dunks. Senior forward Drew Maynard who was a Division-1 transfer from Valdosta State to Rochester was able to capitalize on EMU’s turnovers, almost scoring half of the Warriors points with 27 in the game. Maynard led the day in scoring for all players.
The Eagles have a tough road ahead of them playing big match ups against national powerhouses Kentucky, Syracuse and Michigan this season. If the 2-3 zone can hold the Eagles have a chance to take the MAC conference, they were preseason picked to come in second in the western division but look to return to the NCAA tournament this year. The Eagles haven’t been in the tournament since 1998 and would need to win the MAC to get an automatic bid.
The Eagles will now hit the road for their first away game Sunday against Jacksonville State.
“Moving forward we need to keep working, we need to take care of the basketball stop unforced turnovers and bad decisions,” Murphy said. “All of that will be corrected, film is always the best teacher and we got a lot to watch tonight when we get to Jacksonville State.”