Eagles’ zone gives Miami an afternoon of headaches

The 2-3 zone is Eastern Michigan University coach Rob Murphy’s baby. He loves to watch it grow.

That defense made life difficult for the visiting Miami men’s basketball team Saturday afternoon as the Eagles won 65-58 before a crowd of 884 at the Convocation Center.

“I brought it from Syracuse, and that’s what I believe in,” Murphy said. “It’s just being active, pressuring the ball, putting our hands up, taking away areas of the floor which opposing teams like. We hang our hats on being active and throwing little wrinkles in it depending on the team we’re playing. If we can rebound out of it like we did today, we’ll continue to improve and have a pretty good year.”

Eastern starts 7-foot Da’Shonte Riley, 6-9 Jamell Harris and 6-8 Glenn Bryant, and 6-10 Matt Balkema comes off the bench. The hosts gained a 34-24 edge on the boards and blocked five shots, altering more than that.

The RedHawks responded by launching 24 treys and making only six.

“That’s their main staple on defense,” said MU forward Will Felder, who had 12 points and nine boards. “It’s real tough to get good shots off down there when they collapse on you. But it wasn’t just the zone.

“Our defensive rebounding, I think we could’ve done better with that too. When you let them have second chances, that’s also time on the clock. You’ve got to think about that. When you give up a second possession, that takes away another 35 seconds, and that makes a big difference in the game. It adds up.”

Starting guards Allen Roberts and Reggie Johnson were a combined 2 of 17 on 3-pointers.

“The majority of teams play man, but they were in that 2-3, and it’s kind of a power struggle when you try to do something else,” Roberts said. “It’s just a different look, something that we don’t normally play against, and they did a good job with it.”

“It’s hard for us to simulate their size and length in practice,” Miami coach John Cooper said. “I thought in the second half we were able to adjust a little bit better to the zone and get used to it, but we needed to be able to step up and knock down more shots. And when we’re on defense, it’s hard for us to affect their shots when they hop up and jump over us. Their length and their size gave them better looks.”

The Eagles shot 51.2 percent from the field, 47.1 percent from 3-point range and 72.2 percent from the charity stripe.

Liking the RedHawks: Murphy said he was impressed with Miami’s grit and wasn’t surprised by it.

“I know coach Cooper very well, and the one thing they do is they don’t quit,” the second-year Eastern coach said. “They’re very aggressive and tough-minded. They fight. They take on his personality.”

Cutting down the TOs: MU racked up 10 turnovers in the first half, yet only had three from there. EMU notched 10 of its 17 turnovers after intermission.

“I give Miami a lot of credit for pressuring and trapping us,” Murphy said. “They put us in a situation where they got some live-ball turnovers, where you’re able to take the ball and go convert on the other end really easily. We warned our team about that, but our guys got a little winded.”

McGhee’s makes: Miami center Drew McGhee was 3 of 4 from the field Saturday. He is shooting 80.6 percent (25 of 31) over the last nine games.

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