The Eastern Michigan men’s basketball team picked up a huge victory at home against the Purdue boilermakers 47-44. Fans stormed the court for the statement win which was the Eagles first win against a Big Ten opponent since 1997. EMU now moves to 6-2 on the season remaining undefeated at home.
Eastern redshirt junior guard J.R Sims scored seven points, grabbed three rebounds and a steal in the upset win at the Convocation Center.
“It feels great, coach talked to us before the game that it’s been years since we beat a high major team.” Sims said. “It’s really great to come in here at home and get a big win like this.”
The game opened with the Green and White struggling on offense, and Purdue capitalized with an early 11-2 lead. However, the Eagles were able to fight back into the game ending the first half down 20-19. EMU would take the lead to start the second half for the only lead change of the second stanza, and would never look back. Eastern would take a ten point lead 44-34 at the eight minute mark of the second half, but Purdue came back to make the score 46-44 with a minute to play, before junior center Da’Shonte Riley hit a clutch free throw to give the Eagles a three point lead with seconds remaining.
Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy said the defensive improvement his team showed after the loss to Syracuse was major factor in the Eagles upset victory over the Boilermakers.
“Extremely, extremely big win for our program coming off the Syracuse game losing 36 points, committing 24 turnovers,” Murphy said. “We knew we were going to have our challenges going into this game. This week we had to focus on handling the ball, taking care of the ball, just making good decision. …But tonight was all about our defense.”
Unforced turnovers that plagued them in their previous loss were limited by the Green and White in the game with five compared to the 24 from the previous game.
EMU senior captain guard Derek Thompson led in scoring with 8 points and redshirt junior small forward Daylen Harrison grabbed11 rebounds to lead the Eagles.
EMU’s 2-3 zone shut down the Boilermakers offense forcing 18 turnovers , 11 steals, six blocks and held them to 29.8 percent shooting. Senior power forward Jamell Harris was the defensive standout of the game recording two blocks and two steals, the final steal being in the final minute of the game to help seal the win.
“We didn’t have a double digit scorer but everybody all ten guys who played were committed to the defense side of the ball.” Murphy said. “All in all great effort from our guys. We have to get better offensively. We struggled in some areas there, first half we were down eight early and we missed some point blank shots we normally make.”
Purdue was able to dominate on the glass with 51 rebounds compared to 33 rebounds from EMU. Riley and senior center Matt Balkema had only seven rebounds between them but played elite defense in the paint to keep EMU in the game.
The win is a program changing victory for coach Murphy, who is in his second year of his tenure.
“Anytime you build a program you start from the bottom implementing your philosophy and where you want to go, if you want to be a mid level plus or a premiere program in the MAC and mid major program known through the country you need to beat some of these opponents.” Murphy said “We are trying to win as we’re establishing our culture here and I think any time you can get a big ten opponent in your building you have to take advantage of it and this win will go a long way for us.”
EMU will hit the road to play University of Illinois-Chicago and then to Ann Arbor to play University of Michigan as they look to add another win over a Big Ten opponent.