Men’s basketball bounces back after opening loss

Men%E2%80%99s+basketball+bounces+back+after+opening+loss

After a disappointing loss in its season opener on Nov. 15, the Emerson men’s basketball team overcame a double-digit deficit — led by senior captain Jon Goldberg — to win the consolation of the Emerson Tip-Off Classic on Saturday at Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym.

In their first game against Framingham State on Friday, the Lions came back from a 15-point deficit over the final five minutes, only to sputter to an 81-72 loss, missing five 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds after drawing it back to a two-possession game. 

Even though they were facing similar circumstances in the third-place game on Saturday, Emerson battled to take back the lead, 64-62, over Emmanuel College with nine seconds to go following two clutch free throws from Goldberg, who showed his teammates how to close out after drawing a foul on a reverse layup attempt.

“[Emerson head coach Jim O’Brien] was telling us to relax, believe, and be patient,” said Goldberg, whose late foul shots tied him with sophomore guards Michael Thorpe and Tyson Hallowell with a game-high 13 points. “[I was] a little nervous there while shooting the free throws, but I just took a few deep breaths.”

Goldberg also led all players with 11 rebounds for a double-double, but O’Brien said he wants to see Goldberg take on an even bigger role on the offensive end.

[elementor-template id="60935"]

“I still maintain that he can do more offensively,” O’Brien said. “But he came up big when we needed him. I have got to get him to be more selfish. [He’s] the single most selfless human being I have ever coached, but he is taking it to another level.” 

O’Brien said he was faced with a “difficult scenario” while strategizing for the follow-up game against Emmanuel — which lost its first round contest, 88-71, to Wentworth — due to an injury to the Saints’ starting center, 6-foot-6 Kyle Davis. 

“Their big guy broke his hand and because of that, they had to play five guards,” O’Brien said. “Do we match down to them and take out one or two of your best bigs, or are you going to play your team and then see if we can take advantage of our size?” 

O’Brien decided to go with the latter and started sophomore forwards Kyle Edwards and Brian Hurley, both 6-foot-6 or taller. The chess move paid off as the Lions took an early 10-point lead, which allowed them to weather a cold-streak soon after. 

“We just go into these droughts where we can’t score,” said O’Brien.

Emerson’s shooting woes continued into the start of the second half. 

The Lions trailed the Saints by 10 points, 52-42, with just under 11 minutes to go,  which was Emmanuel’s largest lead of the game.

Coupled with strong play from their starting backcourt, the Lions staged a late rally, helped along by sophomore guard Jacob Forchheimer, who came off the bench with just over 13 minutes remaining, scoring four points and pulling in six rebounds, four defensive.

“[Forchheimer] stepped up,” Goldberg said. “We all knew he had that in him. It was just a matter… of him breaking out and he did. Hopefully he can maintain that level of play because we need that from him.”

O’Brien said he’s been trying to find minutes for Forchheimer.

“There is still a lot of stuff that he needs to learn and grow with,” O’Brien said. “We’re piecemealing him and he’s getting better. I do think he has some potential if he puts the whole package together.” 

Although 10 of Emerson’s 15-man roster played in the Lions’ first win of the season, junior forward Austin Pinckney and sophomore center Kirby Johnston were not among them and were both also absent from the bench.

 O’Brien said Johnston was dealing with an undisclosed injury, but that Pinckney’s absence had nothing to do with health.

 “It was disciplinary,” O’Brien said. “He hasn’t acted the way that I would prefer he act and so we needed to have him take some time off.” 

Although Goldberg wouldn’t comment on his teammates’ absence, he said it felt great to get his team’s first victory. 

“We needed that win, badly. [Now], we can only go up.” Goldberg said. “What you live for is the locker room moments, and right now everyone is going crazy. [That] makes you want to win more and keep grinding.”

O’Brien described Emerson’s win as “ugly”, but said he was very impressed by his squad’s “stick-to-itiveness.”

“It would have been easy to just say ‘Woe is me, we aren’t playing well,’ but they just stayed with it and they stayed positive,” O’Brien said. “We just kept prodding and pushing and staying with it and grinding. Right up to the bitter end they stayed right with it.” 

Up next, the Lions will face Tufts University at home on Friday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m.