YPSILANTI, Mich. — The 2017-18 season got underway inside the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, MI on Friday morning, and what a debut it was for forward Elijah Minnie.
Playing his first regular season game with the Eastern Michigan Eagles after transferring from the Robert Morris Colonials following the 2015-16 season, Minnie wasted little time before having an impact on the game.
The Eagles welcomed the Spring Arbor Cougars to town, and despite a close start to the game, Minnie and the Eagles pulled away and rolled to the 92-60 victory.
Spring Arbor opened the game with a mini 6-2 run, with all six of their points coming from Zach Medendorp. At the 15:07 mark of the first half, Minnie would hit a three pointer for the Eagles, giving the home side an 11-9 advantage.
Eastern Michigan wouldn’t trail the rest of the day, and slowly built on their lead as the first half wound down.
The lead for the Eagles would reach as many as 18 points on two occasions down the stretch in the first half, with the second coming with under a minute to play on a layup from freshman Kevin McAdoo. Eastern Michigan would take a 40-25 lead into the break.
In the second half, it was more of the same for the Eagles. They slowly built their lead over the 20 minutes, and the Cougars were never able to mount a serious comeback and challenge Eastern Michigan the rest of the way. A three pointer from Brandon Durnell with 9:55 to play in the game brought the Cougars to within 18 points, but that was as close as they would get.
Over the final 9:37, the Eagles led by at least 20 points. A three-point play from Malik Ellison in the closing seconds pushed the lead for Eastern Michigan to 32 points, their largest of the game. The Eagles would go on to win by the same margin, 92-60.
Some things never change for the Eagles, and once again, forward James Thompson IV recorded a double-double. He posted 10 points and 14 rebounds to open the season. Elijah Minnie led all scorers 22 points to go along with three assists and three blocks.
Sophomore forward Ty Groce came off the bench to record 15 points, four rebounds, and six steals. In total, four Eagles reached double-figures in the season opener.
Zach Medendorp paced the Cougars with a double-double of own, recording 14 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort.
Friday was the first of four straight home games for Eastern Michigan (1-0). They now turn their attention to the University of Michigan-Dearborn, who come to Ypsilanti on Sunday afternoon.
– T. Bennett