Tavelyn James sets Eastern Michigan scoring record during 77-64 win against Michigan
Tavelyn James tied the Eastern Michigan all-time scoring record seconds into Sunday’s game with Michigan and broke it moments later.
But the highlights were far from over for the senior guard from Detroit.
By the time she finished a 38-point performance with several victory laps to the free-throw line at the Convocation Center, the Eagles had wrapped up their second straight win against Michigan -- a victory coach AnnMarie Gilbert called “a signature win for our basketball team.”
Michigan coach Kevin Borseth opened his post-game press conference by calling the 77-64 Eastern Michigan win “The Tavelyn James Show.”
Courtesy Eastern Michigan
“Our kids didn’t realize how good she was, obviously. She hit shots over hands, she hit shots open, everything she hit. She was on fire.”
That was particularly true early in the game. James made three 3-point baskets and was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line during a 16-2 run that gave the Eagles a 27-13 lead they’d never relinquish.
Over the first 10 minutes of game, James had scored 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. In the process, she eclipsed the school record of 1,899 points scored by Laurie Byrd from 1978-82.
“It means a lot just to know that the record hasn’t been broken in 30 years,” said James, who now has 1,935 career points. “It’s just an accomplishment for me and my team, because my team was excited for me to get that goal.”
It was the Eagles’ second straight win over Michigan (9-2) at the Convocation Center, the first being a 67-59 win in the first round of the WNIT last March. Eastern (6-3) reminded the Wolverines of that win by unfurling a WNIT Sweet 16 banner in a pre-game ceremony.
“We’re very confident for some reason when we play this Michigan basketball team,” Gilbert said. “We felt like we caught them at the right time last year, and this year -- even though they were 9-1 -- we felt like we were in their heads, like they were coming in here with more to lose than we had.”
After the hot start, James’s output the remainder of the game was more reserved -- she finished 10-of-21 from the floor and made 13-of-14 free throws - but she made a big play to steal back momentum every time the Wolverines made a push.
The Wolverines closed the deficit to 35-28 at halftime and got within five points early in the second half, but a James three-point play pushed the Eagles lead back to double-digits (43-32).
But her biggest basket of the night may have been a 3-pointer with 2:45 left to play that ended a 6-2 Michigan run and put the Eagles ahead 64-56. Eastern Michigan went 9-of-10 from the free-throw line from that point to ice the win.
Though she finished four points shy of her own school record for points in a game, set earlier this season, James made an impression on Michigan’s players. The most points the Wolverines had allowed an opponent this season was 24 by Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas, a member of the preseason Wooden Award top 30 list.
“Any player that can score 38 points in a game is extremely talented and we know that she’s capable of doing that,” Michigan guard Courtney Boylan said. “We knew she has the green light to shoot whenever she wants, and today those shots were falling for her.
“We needed to do a better job of all of us defending her, and we didn’t do a good enough job of that today.”
Eastern Michigan sophomore forward Olivia Fouty also gave the Wolverines trouble, scoring 13 of her 19 points in the second half. She also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.
Defensively, Gilbert said the Eagles primarily wanted to take away Michigan’s 3-point shooting. The Wolverines were 2-of-12 from behind the arc.
“We know they had a significant advantage in points in the paint (44-36), but we hit 3s tonight. We thought our 3-pointers would offset any interior baskets they could make,” Gilbert said. “Tavelyn got us off to a great start, so they had to chip away with a lot of 2s to make up for the 3s we were making.”
Rachel Sheffer scored 16 points to lead four Michigan players in double-figure totals. Boylan and Kate Thompson finished with 13 apiece and Jenny Ryan scored 12 points to go with five assists and four steals.
Michigan was on the verge being ranked in both The Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls, but now will likely have to wait a while before making their first appearance since Dec. 23, 2002, when they were No. 25 in the AP top 25.
Meanwhile, the Eagles got a big win over an in-state opponent just two eight days after squandering one when Michigan State wiped out their 14-point, second-half lead to win in overtime.
“I think this is a signature win for our basketball team, and I think we really missed an opportunity (against Michigan State),” Gilbert said. “Had we beat both of those teams, I think we really make ourselves a team that’s a force to be reckoned with.”
“We graduated six seniors last year, this is a young team that is makeshift," added Gilbert, who starts three sophomores alongside seniors James and Paige Redditt. "To beat a team like Michigan with this young team, this means something to me.”
Contact Rich Rezler at 734-623-2553 or email@example.com.