The Game That Should Have Been: Women’s Basketball Hosts Kent State, Jan. 2 – EMU Eagles

YPSILANTI, Mich. (EMUEagles.com) — After 10 days away from the court, the Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team is set to return to action when it welcomes Kent State to the Convocation Center for a Mid-American Conference showdown with the Golden Flashes Saturday, Jan. 2. Tipoff is set for 12:04 p.m.
    Fans can watch the game on ESPN+ where Ryan Wooley will have the call. He’ll be joined in the booth by longtime Division I men’s basketball coach Steve Hawkins, who most recently served as the head coach of Western Michigan’s men’s program from 2003-20. The game will also be aired locally on WEMU 89.1 FM with Tom Helmer and Greg Steiner serving in the play-by-play and analyst roles, respectively.
    Fans are encouraged to continue to follow @EMUWBB on social media and visit EMUEagles.com for the most up-to-date information on all things EMU women’s basketball.

THE GAME IS HERE – 296 DAYS LATE: This year’s EMU-KSU matchup will be accompanied by some extra motivation, as the two teams were set to square off in the 2020 Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals, Friday, March. 13, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Although that game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday’s matchup will feature two squad’s with high hopes for capturing the 2021 MAC championship crown.  

AWESOME AUTUMN: Senior center Autumn Hudson has not only embraced her helping role to the tune of 4.3 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game during the 2020-21 campaign, but she has reinvented herself at the charity stripe. The Richwood, Ohio native is shooting 75-percent from the line this season, the second-best of any player on the team (minimum eight attempts). That mark is an incredible jump over her career average of 32.1-percent entering the season. Hudson has improved at the line in each season with Eastern, starting her career with a 21.4-percent clip in 2017-18 before raising that number to 34.0 and 40.9-percent, respectively, in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

ALL A(BOARD) THE SKANES TRAIN: Redshirt sophomore forward Ce’Nara Skanes continues to prove herself as one of the very best players in the Mid-American Conference as the 2020-21 campaign rolls on, and that was no different in Eastern’s game against Tarleton State, Dec. 21. The final contest of the team’s appearance at the 2020 Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic saw Skanes break an all-time program record for rebounding as she hauled in an impressive 23 boards against the Texans. That number is the most in a single game by any player in the 45-year history of EMU women’s basketball, and is the most rebounds in a single-game by any player (male or female) in the NCAA this season.
    Skanes nearly outrebounded the entire Tarleton State roster in the game, as the Texans finished with just 31 boards. 
    The effort is the first 20-rebound game for an Eagle since the 2014-15 campaign when Brianna Puni grabbed 20 in a game against Drake, March. 20, 2015. Skanes added 12 points to secure her third double-double of the season, which leads the team and the Mid-American Conference. The 20-rebound performance is the first, and only, by any player in the conference this season.     
    Furthermore, the contest secured Skanes as the only player in the conference that currently averages 10.0 rebounds per game, and the only player in the MAC that is averaging a double-double on the season. Through seven games, Skanes ranks first in the MAC in rebounds (70), rebounds per game (10.0), and double-doubles (3).

JENNA HITS THE JACKPOT IN VEGAS: Junior point guard Jenna Annecchiarico was nearly unstoppable in EMU’s two games at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, Dec. 20-21, in Sin City. The Baldwin, N.Y. native began the two-game stint with a season-high 27 points against No. 25 Gonzaga as she stayed on the court for all 40 minutes against the Bulldogs, Dec. 20. Her seven field goals, which included a season-best and team-high four three-point makes, are the most for Annecchiarico in a game this year. Additionally, she shot a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe, her best effort of the season, and added a game-high six assists.
    Annecchiarico followed that performance with a nine-point, seven-assist performance against Tarleton State on Dec. 21. Annecchiarico paced the team in three-pointers for the second-consecutive contest with her three makes from behind the long line. 
    Annecchiarico’s 38.47 minutes per game is the most of any player in the MAC and ranks 19th in the country.

CAN’T LET THEM SCORE 70: Although many factors contribute to the end result of a game, one thing is for certain; 70 is kryptonite for Eastern Michigan. This season, the team is 0-2 when allowing 70 points in a game. Moreover, EMU is 8-30 when allowing 70+ points since the start of the 2016-17 season.
    When Eastern scores 70, it is 1-0 this season and 13-7 since the 2016-17 campaign. 

KEEP THEM UNDER 60: While a team scoring 70 typically favors EMU’s opponent, the Eagles are dominant when holding their competition under 60 points in a game. This season, the team is 3-0 when holding its opponents under the 60-point plateau. Furthermore, Eastern in 19-5 during the Fred Castro era (2016-Pres.) when keeping its competition below 60 points. 

FIRST HALF FORTUNES: It is often said that games are won in the second half, but Eastern Michigan’s stats disagree. EMU is 3-0 this season when leading at the break, and just 1-3 when attempting a second-half comeback. Since the start of the 2016-17 campaign, the Eagles are 31-14 when holding an intermission lead, and just 15-64 when trailing at the half. 

SHOOT WELL, AND YOU WILL WIN: The team that has shot the highest percentage from the floor has emerged victorious in each of EMU’s seven games this season (EMU 4, opponents 3). That trend holds consistent during the last five seasons; the Eagles are 40-13 when outshooting opponents in that stretch, and are just 10-64 when scoring at a lesser clip than its competition. 

COMPETITIVE AGAINST THE TOP-25: Although EMU was unable to pull out a win against the 25th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs on Sunday, Dec. 20, its nine-point margin of defeat, 77-68, was its best showing against a top-25 team since the 2014-15 campaign. That season, the team finished within eight points of No. 14/15 Michigan State, Nov. 16, 2014. 

COMBS’ STREAK COMES TO AN END: Redshirt senior Areanna Combs saw a 29-game double-digit scoring streak come to an end against Gonzaga, Dec. 20. One of the most impressive individual feats in program history, Combs averaged 19.6 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting during the stretch. She also totaled 74 steals and also contributed 6.2 rebounds per game during the 29 games. Although the 29-game streak ended, she quickly began anew with her outstanding 20-point effort against Tarleton State, Dec. 21.

PLAY ALL DAY: Junior guard Jenna Annecchiarico is one of the most relied upon players in all of Division I basketball. No player in the MAC has logged more minutes than Annecchiarico this season, who checks in at 269:18 through seven games. Her 38.47 minutes per game average is the best in the conference, and ranks 19th nationally. 

DOMINANT DEFENSE: EMU’s defensive efforts have been strong through seven games this season. The Eagles are the best in the conference in the scoring defense category, allowing just 61.7 points per game. Additionally, Eastern is second in the MAC rebounding (288), and rank sixth in the MAC in blocked shots (16).

DOING THE DISHES: Junior floor general Jenna Annecchiarico is no stranger to good assist numbers. In fact, she has led the MAC in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of the previous two seasons (1.8). The Baldwin, N.Y. native displayed those talents against SEMO, Dec. 6, as she recorded a team-high eight helpers in the contest. That number, which ties a career-high for Annecchiarico, is the most by an Eagle this season. Annecchiarico’s 32 assists rank second in the MAC while her 4.6 assists per game in 2020-21 ranks third in the league. 

STEAL THE DEAL: Last season, the Eagles were fantastic at stealing the rock, finishing fourth in the Mid-American Conference with 8.57 steals per game. Redshirt senior Areanna Combs was first on the team and fourth in the MAC with a 2.2 SPG average in 2019-20. 
    The Eagles appear to be off to a great start on the defensive end of the floor once again in 2020-21. EMU racked up an incredible 11 steals en route to turning Southern Illinois over 18 times on Nov. 25, before nabbing 18 steals against UIC, Nov. 29, and 13 at Ball State, Dec. 2. The 18-steal game is just one behind EMU’s top mark in the 2019-20 campaign (19 at UIC, Dec. 18). EMU is second in the MAC in both steals (70) and steals per game (10.0), numbers which sit at No. 39 and No. 63 in the nation, respectively. Combs and junior Jenna Annecchiarico are first and third in the MAC, and 14th and 21st nationally with their respective 3.1 and 2.7 steals per game averages. Annecchiarico’s eight steals against UIC, Nov. 29, was a career-high.

ALL-TIME AGAINST KENT STATE: Saturday’s showdown between the Eagles and Golden Flashes marks the 69th time the two teams will battle on the hardwood since the series began during the 1980-81 campaign. Kent State holds the edge in the all-time series, 40-28, but EMU has won 12 of the last 18 matchups between the two schools.

LAST TIME AGAINST THE FLASHES: EMU fought off a late comeback attempt from its opposition en route to its fifth consecutive victory, Jan. 8, 2020, against Kent State, 74-69, at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center.
    With the win, EMU moved to 2-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign. Additionally, the win was the first for Eastern over Kent State since the 2016 season, and the first in Kent, Ohio since EMU topped the Flashes, 70-53, Feb. 4, 2015. 
    Dominant in every aspect of the game, Eastern saw team single-game season-highs in free throw attempts (35), free throw makes (28), free throw percentage (80%), and three-point field goal percentage (67%). Eastern’s 8-for-12 three-point effort tied for the second-best single-game three-point percentage in EMU women’s basketball history, its best performance since it shot the same 67 percent against Idaho State, Nov. 22, 1997.
    The Eagles were led by the duo of Areanna Combs and Jenna Annechiarico, who each contributed 15-point efforts in the win. Defensively, Autumn Hudson paced the team with a nine-rebound performance.

LAST MEETING AT THE CONVO: Sophomore Autumn Hudson paced EMU with a career-high 13 points while pulling down seven boards, including four on the offensive end, but the Eagles ultimately fell at home to KSU, 67-54, Feb. 13, 2020. While both programs shot 40 percent from downtown, EMU finished 32.8 percent (20-of-61) from the floor, while KSU ended the night with a 41.5 percent (22-of-53) efficiency. The Eagles matched the Golden Flashes with 22 points in the paint and tallied 19 points off turnovers, but were narrowly out-rebounded by the visitors, 41-37.

EMU-KSU TRENDS: A back-and-forth series since the 1998 season (modern statistical era), the EMU-KSU series has seen three stretches of six-or-more consecutive wins by one team in that span. Kent State started the century in hot fashion as it won seven straight between 1998-2003. The Eagles got revenge with an 11-game stretch of their own between 2010-16, before the Flashes came right back with six consecutive wins over EMU between 2017-19. Eastern won the most recent matchup, 74-69, in Kent, Ohio on Jan. 8, 2020.
    The largest margin of victory in the stretch came in favor of the Eagles, who dominated Kent State by 36, 83-47, in a game played Feb. 11, 2012. A total of 2,150 points have been scored by EMU in the series since the 1998-99 season, good for a scoring average of 69.35 points per game in that stretch. Overall, Eastern in 16-15 against the Flashes since 1998-99.

ON THE HORIZON: Now fully into Mid-American Conference play, EMU will remain at home for a matchup with Buffalo on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. inside the Convocation Center.

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