Men#039;s basketball shines at first tournament

But Coach Smith was more interested in what his team did wrong.,Fresh off a 74-64 victory at UMass Boston, men’s basketball head coach Hank Smith had reason to smile. After all, his team had fought off the tough Beacons to pull away with a victory in the second half.

But Coach Smith was more interested in what his team did wrong.

“Defensively, we allowed them to move the ball too easily,” Smith said. “We try to make it so they can’t run their offense. We did not play very well at all.”

The Lions continued their perfect start with the UMass victory, pushing their record to 4-0 on the season. Center Brian Rouse led the team with 22 points and eight rebounds, while guard Jeremy Shannon added 18 points for Emerson.

Amidst the win, though, one of the Lions’ main weaknesses was exposed: the team’s size. UMass’ 6″6′ inch center Ernst Jean scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds against a smaller Emerson frontcourt.

Rouse, the team’s tallest player at 6’4″, said the Lions’ lack of height causes them to approach games with a different philosophy.

“Everyone’s big next to us, so we approach each game the same,” Rouse said. “We know we may be smaller, so we go in with that mentality.”

Still, the team has been able to compensate for its size in other areas. All five starters on the squad played key roles on last year’s team, allowing for familiarity between players early on. Senior captain Will Dawkins said the team has been able to get into a rhythm earlier in the season.

“We’re a year older, with four senior captains that have been here all four years,” the broadcast journalism and media arts double major said. “Our younger players have been here a year, so we’re gelling earlier.”

Another major boost this year has come in the form of the freshmen on the team. Newcomer Tom Messinger is connecting on 60 percent of three-point attempts, while averaging 15 points per game.

“Last year, there were lots of games where one shot would have put the game away for us,” senior captain Joe Boylan said. “We’ve never had a knockdown shooter, but Tom has hit that three-pointer for us early on.”

With opponents having to account for a deadly shooter on the perimeter like Messinger, Smith said, other players like Shannon and Dawkins have found easier lanes to the basket in the early goings.

“Tom has been fantastic,” Smith said. “He’s changed the way teams have to play us.”

During the game at UMass, Messinger went down with an injury early in the second half. Coach Smith said Messinger probably injured his collarbone and that he was transported to the hospital after the game.

So far this year, the results have been all positive for the Lions. The team won its season opener at the Vassar College Tournament, defeating William Patterson College and Vassar along the way. The team also beat Brandeis University, one of the nation’s top Division III teams, in scrimmage play.

Senior media arts major Rhys Thieriot, the team’s manager, said it was not only the team that shined, but individual players as well.

“Ben Chase has never been much of a offensive player, but with 25 points in the championship game he was named Most Valuable Player,” Thieriot said in an e-mail to the Beacon. He went on to say that Rouse was named to the all-tournament team in Poughkeepsie.

The team followed its impressive tournament outing with a win over Babson College, in the first home game of the year held in the Piano Row gymnasium.

Ultimately, Dawkins said, this year’s team has a chance to do well if it can keep its effort at a high level at all times. Against the Beacons, the Lions were not able to gain a double-digit lead until the second half.

“We need to work on our intensity out of the gates,” Dawkins said. “It hurts us, because we let other teams get off to a quick start.”

While Coach Smith is keeping the focus on improving his team’s weaknesses, he admits the team’s attitude this year gives it a chance for better things to come down the road.

“It’s too early to tell [how we’ll fare],” Smith said. “But our attitude so far, as a team, has been unbelievable. Last year, it was really good, but this year, it’s unbelievable.”