In its final six games of the regular season, men’s basketball will face a MAC West opponent in each game starting with Eastern Michigan at 6 p.m. today at the Convocation Center.
The Huskies (11-13, 5-7 MAC) trail the Eagles (15-10, 7-5 MAC) by two games in the conference standings, which makes each one of the Huskies’ last six games important going into the MAC tournament.
“...They’re swing games,” said coach Mark Montgomery. “We have our opportunity; we can’t look at what other teams are doing.We have to take care of our business with our last six games.
“We have two opportunities against Eastern, and we have opportunities against everyone in our division if we want to make a move.”
“So we can only control the game that we’re about to play on Thursday, but it’s a huge game, and it’s a huge game because there are only six left and our goal is to host a game in the MAC tournament.”
This game will be a challenge for the Huskies on offense as the Eagles are statistically the best defensive team in the MAC, holding opponents to 62 points per game. In its last game, Eastern Michigan held the highest-scoring team in the MAC, Toledo, to just 44 points.
The difference maker for the Eagles on defense is their man in the middle, 7-foot center Da’Shonte Riley. Riley has an effect on every shot in the lane and leads the MAC with three blocks per game.
“The first challenge is their 2-3 zone, which is almost like a 2-4-1 zone with the 7-footer in the middle,” Montgomery said. “It’s very unique. No one else in the conference plays that defense, so we’re going to have to not settle for 30 3-point shots and make sure we get the ball to the basket or we get the ball on the inside, so our focus is we have to get the ball on the inside and not just settle for the first open shot we get.”
The Eagles are led by their do-it-all forward Karrington Ward. He leads the team with 12.8 points per game, grabs 6.8 rebounds per game and has secured 38 steals on the season.
“Ward is an athletic wing,” Montgomery said. “He can score in transition and he’s a good catch and shoot [player], so he’s a versatile three-man.”
Aside from Ward, the Eagles have a number of guards who are capable of putting up points from behind the arc. Raven Lee scores 10.8 points per game and Mike Talley averages 10 points per game while Darell Combs comes off the bench to add 7.1 points per game.
Lee leads the team with 26 made 3-point field goals on the year while Combs has come in and hit 22 3-pointers off the bench.
“Starting with their point guard, Talley, we’re going to definitely have to keep him in front of us,” Montgomery said. “Dribble penetration is going to be key because they run some of that three-man motion, dribble drive like Miami (Ohio) runs, and Raven Lee [is a] very explosive second-year player that has had games of 25, 20 points and is a very good 3-point shooter, too.”