GRAND RAPIDS - Aggressiveness was the missing ingredient in the MSU womens basketball teams 59-66 loss to Eastern Michigan on Sunday at the Womens College Basketball Showcase at Van Andel Arena.
All 11 previous matches with the Eagles were Spartan victories.
MSU is now 3-3, while Eastern improved to 5-2.
Eastern played a much better game than us, head coach Joanne P. McCallie said of the loss. My hat goes off to them for having that kind of aggression and scrappiness. They deserved that basketball game very much.
MSU senior guard Becky Cummings, who led the team in the first half with 10 points, sat out in the second half because of an injured left ankle.
McCallie said she didnt know the extent of the injury or how long Cummings could be out. Cummings is MSUs only returning starter, and has averaged 15 points per game through the first six games.
But McCallie said she was disappointed her team seemed lost without its leading scorer and co-captain.
I definitely agree that it was a big loss, but it was unfortunate that our team didnt rally, she said. Thats an enigma to me completely.
MSU jumped to an early 7-0 lead, with the first bucket by Cummings at 17:41. Cummings turned it into a three-point play after she was sent to the foul line.
The Spartans held that lead for the next five minutes. The Eagles took over with 12 minutes left on guard Kristy Maskas third basket from behind the arc, narrowing the score to 16-18.
Eastern continued to dominate for most of the first half, as MSU had trouble getting the ball inside the post.
But sophomore guard Vnemina Reese put up seven points in the last two minutes of the half to give the Spartans a slight 35-33 head over the Eagles.
(Vnemina) had her moments, McCallie said. But thats what we are - a team of moments.
In the second half, MSU tried to keep its edge, but inefficient offense, a weak zone defense and no Cummings cleared the air for Eastern.
Eastern also switched its defensive strategy from zone to man-to-man late in the half, adding to the Spartans confusion.
The Eagles took the lead with 13:04 left on a two-pointer by forward Shani Charles, and never gave it back.
With less than a minute on the clock and the Spartans down by five, the team tried to set up a three-point opportunity for freshman guard Candice Jackson.
Jackson couldnt connect on the attempt, and fouled Eastern guard Stephanie Smiley with one second remaining. Smiley hit both free throws and the Eagles flocked the court.
This is our biggest win so far, Eastern head coach Suzy Merchant said. I think its time for us to get some credibility here.
Four Eastern players finished with double digits, including 13 points off the bench from forward Abby Wiseman.
Spartan senior guard Donita Johnson, who led MSU in scoring with 13 points, said the team has stressed putting together a strong effort each game.
From game one weve had to come out ready to play, Johnson said. Weve got to be aggressive and be defensive. The offense will always come, but youve got to play defense.
The team returns to East Lansing to take on Wisconsin-Green Bay Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Breslin Student Events Center.