Eastern Michigan loses lead and MAC West title to Central Michigan, 56-55
YPSILANTI - Almost an hour after the final buzzer sounded, Justin Dobbins stood outside Eastern Michigan’s locker room, still stunned.
None of this felt real. None of it settled in. Eastern Michigan had been so close to winning its first Mid-American Conference regular season title in more than a decade, and then the Eagles went cold. They missed shots.Â
They missed assignments and they missed their opportunity. Central Michigan rallied for a 56-55 win and claimed the MAC West title along with it.
The Associated Press
“It just feels like right now we at halftime,” Dobbins said. “I can’t believe it just happened, that it just happened that way.”
Eastern Michigan led by five points, 55-50, with 2:32 left. The Eagles, for the first time all game, gained control with a 7-0 run that put them in this position.
They had played well, made smart plays and rode the 27 points of guard Carlos Medlock to the brink of a title, the brink of a bye to the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament.
They could have claimed the signature moment of Charles Ramsey's five-year tenure.Â Instead, Eastern, the No. 6 seed, will play host to No. 11 Northern Illinois at 2 p.m. on Sunday in the first round of the MAC tournament.
Slowly, he built the program. EMU finished tied for second two years ago. Then it fell back last year. Now this: Being two minutes from finishing first in a division for the first time ever and first in the league for the first time since 1995-96.
“After we were up five, we knew we had it,” Medlock said. “We had some slip-up, a couple guys, the little things that kept us from winning. But we felt like we had it.
“Overconfidence, I guess, on the defensive end really killed us. The little assignments that we didn’t make when we did the whole game to get that lead, we didn’t do it that time and we paid for it.”
First, Central Michigan forward Marko Spica made a layup to cut EMU’s lead to 55-52.
On the next possession, Eastern Michigan (16-14 overall, 8-8 MAC) tried not to force shots. They passed up open looks, trying to let Medlock create. He did, but the ball went out of bounds with two seconds on the shot clock and Ramsey called a timeout, clapping his hands together furiously.
“We wanted to get the ball inside where we thought we did get it but we didn’t do a great job handling it,” Ramsey said. “It got kicked out, which led to the late shot clock.”
Central Michigan (15-14, 9-7) started switching everything on the possession, trying to make sure a man was always on Medlock keeping him from passing into the post. When EMU inbounded the ball, Medlock found Dobbins, who turned the ball over as the shot clock expired.
Next time down the floor, Eastern Michigan missed an assignment, giving Central Michigan senior guard Robbie Harman a small crease to take a three-pointer. He did. It fell for the last of his 14 points and Central tied the game at 55 with 1:14 left.
After an Eastern turnover, Dobbins fouled Central forward Jalin Thomas, who made one of two free throws to give the Chippewas the lead for the last time.
From there, Eastern missed free throws, turned the ball over and had a half-court shot at the buzzer fall short.
With the miss went the Eagles’ MAC West hopes and, for the moment, left a season soured.
“Right now it means nothing,” Ramsey said. “We didn’t win. We didn’t win. Maybe if you ask me that in a week, two weeks, my answer would be different but right now it’s not.
“ I have a bunch of kids in there crying their eyes out. I got kids in there crying that I didn’t know cried. It hurts. It hurts. They had it right there in their grips and it hurts.”