Eastern Michigan women's basketball team poised for third WNIT appearance
A year after an 8-21 record — including a 4-12 mark in Mid-American Conference play and a 10-game losing skid in the middle of the season — the Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team focused on one thing:
Build a legacy.
It’s the Eagles’ team slogan, created by their tiny yet inspirational two-player senior class. It even adorns the 2009-10 media guide.
Eastern Michigan, 22-8, is tied with the 1985-86 Ohio Bobcats for the biggest one-year turnaround in MAC history. And with their first-round WNIT game at Purdue on Wednesday, the Eagles have a chance to claim yet another big win.
“I can’t say we really expected to be in this position,” Eastern Michigan coach AnnMarie Gilbert said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But the young players have really stepped up and played above their age. I can honestly say we’ve only had three bad games all year, which is great when you have so many young players.”
This will be Eastern Michigan’s third appearance in the WNIT, and the program has yet to post a victory in the tournament. In 2005, the Eagles lost to Kentucky 79-68, and they lost to Indiana State 79-59 a year later.
Like the team’s first two WNIT games, this one will also be in a hostile road-game situation. The Boilermakers always draw good crowds at Mackey Arena, and they’ve traditionally fielded strong teams. Purdue won back-to-back Big Ten Tournament championships in 2007 and 2008 and came within a point of winning three straight, losing in 2009 to Ohio State.
But this Purdue team (14-16 overall) isn’t quite the same.
“This is probably the youngest Purdue team I’ve ever scouted,” Gilbert said. “We’ve got a lot of great pieces — I think we probably have better speed than them, and they have better size than us. So it could come down to rebounds. Whatever happens, I know we’ll be fighting for our lives our there (tonight).”
While this season has been somewhat disappointing for the Boilermakers, it’s been quite a surprise for Eastern Michigan and Gilbert, who said the team wanted to win 15-plus games.
The Eagles won 10 of their first 12 games and their first four conference games this season, which turned some heads.
And the team found success on the individual level, as well. Junior Cassie Schrock is 17th in the nation with 166 assists, and sophomore Tavelyn James broke the Eastern Michigan record for points in a season, led the MAC at 20.4 points a game and has scored 1,000 career points, a feat just 15 Eagles have accomplished.