Northern Illinois had a chance to win at the buzzer but a huge block from junior forward Glenn Bryant saved the green and white and gave them the win. Bryant had struggled before in the game against Toledo and bounced back in the first round matchup recording 10 points and eight rebounds. Coach Rob Murphy was impressed with Bryant's improvement.
"What I was most impressed with tonight was that he decided to get rebounds with two hands in areas where other people can't get them. I thought he improved on closing and being in the right area." Murphy said. "his rebounding is what made the difference and when we needed buckets he provided us with relief, but he is a high energy guy and he needs to get more rebounds and drive the ball, once in the paint Glenn Bryant has the ability to shoot over anyone in the conference."
The game changer for the Eagles was junior center Da'Shonte Riley who earned a double double on the night scoring 13 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and blocking four shots. The seven foot center dominated the paint shooting five for five from the paint and was a mismatch during the game playing a team high 36 minutes. Going into the next round Riley's size will be huge if the Eagles are to advance forward.
"It is that time of the year. March is win or go home and I wanted to take that step and show my team that I can lead them if need be it. Riley said about his performance. "I want to take them all the way to where we want to be and that's the MAC championship and advance into post season play. It's all about pushing and keeping wind and moving forward no matter what."
Northern Illinois had been previously held to NCAA record low in points and fought hard in what was their final game of the season finishing 5-25 on the season. EMU will now move on to play the University of Miami of Ohio who was the 11 seed upsetting six seed Bowling Green to advance forward to Cleveland for the second round.
In the last game against Miami the Eagles took the victory in a close matchup of 65-58 but struggled against the press defense late in the game. "They are a very tough team, very physical and they have a few guys who can make plays." Murphy said, "They are much better than their record says and at this point in the season it is win or go home. We need to handle pressure and handle the ball and we will be fine."
Eastern will now travel to Cleveland to play Wednesday in the next round of the MAC tournament.