SYRACUSE, N.Y. (EMUEagles.com) - The Eastern Michigan University women's basketball team's magical postseason run came to a close Thursday night, March 24, in the third round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) at the Carrier Dome. The Eagles dropped a 72-63 decision to the Orange in the equivalent of the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.
With the score tied at 51 and 5:01 to play, the Orange used 12-2 run down the stretch to secure the victory. EMU managed just one field goal over the final 8:32 of the contest.
The Orange improved to 25-8 after clinching their first trip to the WNIT's Elite Eight and a trip to Toledo, Ohio to play Mid-American Conference foe the University of Toledo. The contest will be played Sunday, March 27, at 2 p.m. inside Savage Arena. Meanwhile, the Eagles end their season with a record of 24-13, after pick up the program's first two postseason victories as well as eclipsing the highest win total for a single season.
The Green and White entered the contest knowing they had a tall task ahead of them with Syracuse riding a 41-game home non-conference winning that dated back to Nov. 25, 2007. SU's last home out-of-league setback occurred 1,215 days ago, in a 56-43 loss to Canisius College, Dec. 22, 2006.
Paige Redditt (Kansas City, Mo.Belton) closed out an outstanding season in an EMU uniform, finishing with a season-high 22 points on 6-of-15 shooting, including 10-of-13 at the free throw line. She also grabbed seven rebounds in 39 minutes of work. Junior Tavelyn James (Detroit, Mich.-Mumford) added to her prolific offensive campaign by notching 12 points.
Three Orange players reached double figured in points, led by Iasia Hemingway's 29 points and 10 rebounds. Kayla Alexander had 16 points, to go along with 10 from Erica Morrow.
After leading by just two at the half, Syracuse pushed the advantage back to five on an Alexander jumper in the lane. James would drain a three-pointer with 13:03 to make it a one possession contest and then Sydney Huntley (Cincinnati, Ohio-Purcell Marian) would knot the score at 46-all on another three with 12:17 remaining.
The sides would exchange scores and possessions, but EMU was still unable to pick up its first lead of the game since the opening score of the ballgame.
Finally, two charity tosses by Redditt at the 5:16 mark gave EMU the 61-60 lead but again Syracuse answered with a score of their own to go back ontop.
A nearly eight minute field goal drought by EMU allowed Syracuse to go on a 10-0 run and push the margin to nine, 70-61 on an Alexander layup with 1:29 left.
Syracuse jumped out to a 9-2 edge as the Eagles struggled to find their shooting touch making just one of its first eight attempts in the first four minutes of action. However, Eastern Michigan was able to settle in and cut the deficit to a pair, 17-15, on back-to-back triples from De'Ja Wills (Anderson, Ind.-Anderson) with 10:42 to play.
A 7-4 spurt by SU pushed the margin back to six points, but consecutive baskets by Redditt forced the Orange to burn a timeout with 5:06 still showing on the clock.
The Orange would respond with an answer out of the break, with Kayla Alexander chipping in two free throws with 2:47 to play to make it 31-24. The defense would step up to hold SU without a field goal for the final 2:26, as EMU would score eight of the next 11 points to head into the lockerroom at the half down just two, 34-32.