Undefeated Eastern Michigan tops Longwood for EMU Showcase crown

longwood logoLongwood was the last team standing in the way of undefeated Eastern Michigan, but the Eagles remained undefeated with a 79-48 win over the Lancers Sunday to win the EMU Showcase at the EMU Convocation Center.

Eastern Michigan (5-0) dispatched Youngstown State, UNC Greensboro and Longwood by an average of 16.0 points per game during the three-day tournament and handed guard Raven Lee the Most Valuable Player trophy following Sunday’s win. Lee averaged 18.3 points per game at the tournament and banked 14 Sunday against Longwood.

Lee also keyed a defensive effort that forced Longwood (2-3) into a season-high 24 turnovers that the Eagles turned into 25 points. Playing their fourth game in five days, the Lancers struggled to break through a zone defense reminiscent of Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 scheme, the blueprint of which Eastern Michigan head coach Rob Murphy brought with him from his seven years as an assistant coach with the Orange.

“We hit a wall in the second half physically,” said Longwood head coach Jayson Gee, who led the Lancers to a 2-2 record at the EMU Showcase with wins over Averett and UNCG. “Maybe it was playing four games in five days, but Eastern Michigan obviously had something to do with it too because their defense was outstanding. They’ve been holding teams to 39 percent from the field, and we shot 32 percent which was par for the course. “

Eastern Michigan forward Anali Okoloji matched Lee with 14 points and picked off five passes from the back end of the zone. He and Eastern Michigan’s contingent of long, rangy defenders clogged Longwood’s interior passing lanes and limited the touches of center Lotanna Nwogbo, who still found a way to muscle in a team-high 14 points to earn all-tournament honors.

“That’s a compliment to [Nwogbo] and his work ethic,” Gee said of the redshirt junior, who averaged 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per game for the weekend. “He took last year and got a whole lot better. He deserves a lot of credit, and we just need to help him a little bit more.”

The offensive help was sporadic for Nwogbo, as only freshman guard Ryan Badowski joined him with double figures in the scoring column. Badowski hit 3-of-9 shots from three-point range on the way to 12 points and his third double-digit scoring effort of the season. It was the fourth time in Longwood’s five games that the 6-3 sharp-shooter drained at least three three-pointers in a game and the performance kept him atop the NCAA freshman leaderboard for made three-pointers.

But while Eastern Michigan yielded 26 points to Badowski and Nwogbo, the Eagles kept the rest of Longwood’s offense in check. Center Jodan Price registered three blocks, and the Eagles amassed 17 steals to hold Longwood to .327 (18-of-55) shooting from the field.

“You can’t be a good team and turn the ball over like that,” Gee said. “We have our work cut out for us in many ways, but the good thing is it’s early. We have a group of guys that are all new and trying to figure things out, and we’ve got to help them. We have to find a way to help them.”

Longwood continues its six-game road stretch this week with away matchups at George Washington Wednesday, Nov. 26, and at Iowa Saturday, Nov. 29.