Eastern Michigan beats Michigan 45-42
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) After Eastern Michigan stunned crosstown foe Michigan 45-42 on Tuesday night, John Beilein congratulated Rob Murphy by telling him that the Eagles' stifling 2-3 zone defense was one of the toughest zones Beilein had ever seen.
That's an even bigger compliment, considering Michigan cracked Syracuse's similar defensive style just one week ago in a 68-65 Michigan win.
''That is a huge credit to our guys,'' Murphy said. ''Obviously, we put guys in position, but they go on the floor and implement the game plan well.''
The Wolverines shot just 32.6 percent from the field, their lowest mark of the season, including a stretch of 12 consecutive misses in the first half.
''We didn't get many open shots,'' Beilein said. ''They were really good. We pride ourselves on being a pretty good offensive team, and our coaches do pretty good. We didn't have a lot of answers today. Their quickness was overwhelming.
''I wore out the chalk board with different things we could do. . When we did get the few we could get, we didn't knock enough of those down.''
The Wolverines (6-3) are left reeling. After beating Syracuse, they have dropped two straight head-scratchers to New Jersey Institute of Technology and Eastern Michigan (8-1) in a four-day span.
''(Our players) are really down now,'' Beilein said. ''It's a local team. But we can't stay down. We have a long trip to Arizona. We're playing a tremendous team. We'll just bounce back, just keep trying to do it.''
Eastern Michigan was led by 11 points from Jodan Price. The Eagles shot just 15 of 46 from the field, but hauled in nine offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive and stay within striking distance. Mike Talley added nine points, and Karrington Ward finished with seven, including a 3-pointer with 3 minutes to go that put the Eagles up by three down the stretch.
Caris LeVert scored seven of his 10 points in the second half, but missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 22 seconds to go. Zak Irvin finished with 10, after missing all four of his first-half shots. Derrick Walton added nine.
After a 9-0 run gave Eastern Michigan a five-point lead midway through the second half, the Wolverines tried to pull out of the doldrums.
A 3-pointer from Irvin gave Michigan a 40-38 lead at 4:48, but Eastern Michigan closed out the final minutes with Ward's critical 3-pointer and a final nail in the coffin from Price.
Irvin's last-second prayer clanged off the rim, and Eastern Michigan walked away with a win.
''Two years ago, when we were laying a foundation of the program, we came in here and lost by 39 points,'' Murphy said. ''We closed the gap, and after four years, you want to see your program making progress. You want to come into these venues and compete.''
Wolverines: Snapped a 59-game streak with no back-to-back losses, the longest such streak in the Big Ten. ... LeVert, Walton and Irvin are responsible for 61.6 percent of Michigan's scoring this season. ... Spike Albrecht ranks third nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (6.8). ... Michigan's shooting percentage of 26.3 in the first half was its lowest in any half this season.
Eagles: Separated by just a six-mile drive down Washtenaw Ave. from Michigan's Crisler Center. ... Hold a 3-27 record vs. Michigan. ... The first Eagles win over the Wolverines since Dec. 20, 1997, when they pulled off an 89-83 upset in overtime. ... In the midst of a three-game stint against teams that appeared in last season's Elite Eight, losing to Dayton 73-64 last Saturday, losing to Michigan Tuesday and playing at Michigan State next Wednesday.
WOLVERINES STAYING THE COURSE
Michigan, who has advanced to two straight Elite Eights including a trip to the 2013 National Championship Game, certainly didn't see losses to Eastern Michigan and New Jersey Institute of Technology on the horizon.
But it's too early to panic, says Beilein.
''There's no panic button,'' he said. ''It's Dec. 9, and there's a long way to go. When the season's over, you put a summary on it. But you just have to keep getting better. You're playing 30-some games, and this is the roller coaster you go through.''
PRICE MAKES THEM PAY
Price is a sophomore who struggled through an injury last season. Murphy said he has always encouraged Price to shoot - because he knows he can be a dangerous offensive weapon.
Still, Price is averaging just 5.5 points per game this year.
But he came up big against the Wolverines, with 11 points, including the last bucket of the game, which sealed the win.
''I said to myself, `Jodan, be a hero, be a star right now,''' Murphy said. ''It went through the net. I'm happy he was able to hit that shot and give us a cushion.''
Michigan: Travels to Arizona on Saturday.
Eastern Michigan: Travels to Michigan State on Wednesday, Dec. 17.