Michigan has played Eastern Michigan plenty of times in the past, but Sunday's match-up with the Eagles was a little bit different. This game marked the return of former Wolverine assistant and current Eagle head coach, Charles Ramsey. The relationship between the two programs has grown in Ramsey's short tenure and the players from each side have gotten to know each other very well as a result. They've certainly gotten to know one another's games, thanks to the frequent open gym sessions they participated in on each other's campuses. That familiarity was evident prior to tip-off. Coach Ramsey and Dion Harris shared a moment together, and then he went over talked with some of the staff at Michigan. That, however, is where the love ended.
Michigan poured it on Eastern early and often as Dion Harris canned a three over Carlos Medlock to take a 9-2 lead. Medlock and Harris have known each other since high school and they were getting after each other early game. Harris later shed some light on the relationship.
“I have known Carlos since high school and he was a young guy who looked up to me when I was at (Detroit) Redford," he said. "I just wanted to come out and be the aggressor."
The rest of the Wolverines appeared just as intent on imposing their will on their cross-county rivals. Once again, it was the defense that led the charge. They contested every shot and pass, they dived on the floor for every loose ball, and when it came to rebounds… they took those too.
Offensively the Maize & blue made it a point to look to the post, and their interior guys had their way with Eastern. Courtney Sims had another fine outing. For the second game in a row he was solid at being a presence in the middle. He also did a nice job passing out of the double team. He appeared much more comfortable and was able to get the ball to the open guy. Ron Coleman continued his aggressive ways as well. The Romulus native scored, rebounded and defended very well.
Coach Amaker also got valuable contributions from his bench. He relied on his second team players much more in this game, as Jevohn Shepherd, Jerret Smith, Ekpe Udoh, Courtney Sims, K'len Morris and Reed Baker all saw action in the first half, and all contributed nicely. Shepherd gave Michigan a lift with his seven points and three steals in 13 minutes. Jerret Smith played okay as well, but wasn't quite up to the level that he achieved in the game previous.
The player that really got the crowd going, though, was Deshawn Sims. It was a tough week for the young man with the death of his brother Marcus. The basketball floor has been his refuge, and it showed on Sunday. He entered the game and scored two baskets and a blocked shot all in forty seconds.
Eastern had no answer for what seemed to be endless depth for Michigan on the other side. The lead continued to grow despite Amaker's decision to play Dion Harris and Lester Abram only six and eight minutes in the first half. The Wolverines had built a 50-20 lead at the half and never looked back.
In the second half it was more of the same, as Michigan kept the lead around 30 the rest of the way. The game became somewhat of a scrimmage for Michigan and they began working on spreading the floor, getting the reserves more time, and kicking the ball down to Brent Petway to work on his post moves. Michigan even ran some back door plays that looked good. When time finally expired, the home team had earned an 80-51 victory.
Eastern Michigan’s main two scorers, Carlos Medlock and Jesse Bunkley, never got on track to keep there team in the game. They finished with 10 and eight points respectively.
“I thought again our defense was the story for us, especially in the first half we forced them into some tough shots and held them to a very low field goal percentage," Amaker said afterward. "That's something we have been able to do thus far this season. I was very pleased with the opening half for our team I thought we set the tone early. I was pleased to see the way we started I thought we showed a lot of maturity by coming here this afternoon to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm on the defense end."
Michigan will wrap up the John Thompson Challenge in a Wednesday nigh finale against UW-Milwaukee. Tip-off is scheduled for 7PM EST.