Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Men’s basketball falls to Coast Guard in NEWMAC home opener

First-year+forward+Guillermo+Gasset+Ruiz+shoots+against+Coast+Guard+on+Saturday%2C+Dec.+9%2C+2023.+%28Ashlyn+Wang%2FBeacon+Staff%29
Ashlyn Wang
First-year forward Guillermo Gasset Ruiz shoots against Coast Guard on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (Ashlyn Wang/Beacon Staff)

The Emerson men’s basketball team entered their Thursday afternoon practice less than 24 hours after their NEWMAC opener, where Babson handed them their fourth consecutive loss. The Lions were staring at a 2-6 record with their conference home opener just 48 hours away.

Despite a spirited effort, Emerson fell to the Coast Guard Bears in an overtime thriller, 84-77.

The Lions won the opening tip, and sophomore center Asher Gardiner made two quick layups to put Emerson in front, 4-0, with 18:39 remaining. The Bears quickly answered with consecutive layups of their own to even the score at the 17:42 mark. The Lions eventually led 9-6 with a triple from senior guard Trevor Arico with 16 minutes left. Their leads only lasted for a few moments. Sophomore Brendan McNamara put Emerson up 29-25 with a midrange jumper at the 3:45 mark—their largest lead of the game. Following a triple from first-year forward Shay Roban, a pair of Bears free throws tied the game at 32 with 2:46 left. Coast Guard built a six-point lead off of jump shots and layups before sophomore guard Jacob Armant nailed a two-pointer with seven seconds left. The Lions entered halftime trailing 38-34.

The second half began with a scoring drought, broken by a tip-in from Gardiner at the 18-minute mark. Gardiner scored again to tie the game at 38 with 16:46 remaining. After a jumper by Coast Guard, Armant responded with a tough stepback three to give the Lions a 41-40 lead with 16 minutes to play. The Bears separated themselves with a 6-0 run and built up a 50-43 lead with 11 minutes remaining. Emerson, however, remained unfazed.

Gardiner stole the ball and glided to the rim for a layup with 10:27 to play. He followed that up with a charge that gave Emerson the ball back four seconds later. First-year forward Guillermo Gasset-Ruiz found Gardiner for another layup with under ten minutes left, and what was once a seven-point deficit was trimmed to three. After Coast Guard and Gasset-Ruiz traded buckets, Gardiner nailed one of two free throws to make it a two-point game, 52-50, with under nine minutes left. Arico’s fadeaway jumper knotted it at 52 shortly after. After the Bears got a putback layup, Brenner’s three at the 7:35 mark gave Emerson a 55-54 lead and energized the Brown-Plofker Gym.

The game’s intensity continued into the final minutes, as the Lions and Bears were tied at 62 with three minutes to play. Gasset-Ruiz gave the Lions a brief 64-62 lead with 2:46 remaining, and the Bears nailed two free-throws of their own shortly after. After a Bears jumper with 1:49 left, Brenner found Gardiner for the game-tying layup at the 1:11 mark. Gardiner’s emphatic swat gave Emerson one last chance with 10 seconds left, but the Bears forced a turnover to send the game into overtime.

Photo: Ashlyn Wang
Sophomore center Asher Gardiner goes for a dunk against Coast Guard on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (Ashlyn Wang/Beacon Staff)

Gardiner opened up overtime scoring with a layup at the 4:46 mark, but the Bears answered with a layup on their end with 4:08 to play. Brenner’s corner three gave Emerson a 71-68 lead with 2:55 left, but the Bears remained on the Lions’ tail. With Emerson leading 73-72, Armant’s drained a midrange jumper with 1:48 to play. A pair of free throws and a three-pointer quickly swung the momentum back Coast Guard’s way, as they went up 77-75 with 50 seconds remaining. The Bears nailed two free throws with 30 seconds left, and Armant buried two on the other end with 24 seconds to go. Leading 79-77, Coast Guard made five of their last six attempts from the stripe in the waning moments, and the Lions fell to their fifth straight loss and second loss in the NEWMAC.

Gardiner led the Lions with 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting and 15 rebounds. Brenner tallied 13 points, including three triples, while Armant had 13 points off the bench. Gasset-Ruiz and Arico finished with eight points apiece, and McNamara dished out seven assists in addition to seven points.

Following the game, Brenner pointed to some positives despite the outcome.

“We executed our offense pretty well,” he said. “Especially down the stretch in regulation. Not so much in overtime cause we were kind of rushing. But we executed, competed on defense, [and] we rebounded really well.”

Head Coach Bill Curley appreciated the team’s effort, but said the keys to turning things around are focus and discipline.

“We’re young, we’re not seeing things, but they’re giving everything we have,” he said. “We just have to get better, and it starts with really focusing in practice and being ready to go.”

“I think we think we know a little bit more than what we actually do, and we just have to trust and have patience,” Curley added. “But they’re doing an excellent job at putting themselves in positions to win games, and that’s what you want at the end of the day…We had every opportunity to win, and we didn’t capitalize. So, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

He added that the team must recognize the sense of urgency they have to play with, emphasizing the need to make teammates better as opposed to just putting points on the board.

Curley also reflected on the impact of Gardiner, who scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half and overtime.

“He had a hard time last year playing behind Jarred [Houston ‘23],” he said. “It was hard to get him into the flow of things. This year, it’s a little bit different. He’s basically a freshman almost, in terms of experience, and that’s on me. But he’s a thinker, he’s a horse out there, and he’s starting to put it together, and he’s going to be better. Every game, he’s getting better, seeing things, and [he’s] not stuck in the quicksand. He’s starting to react a little bit instead of thinking about it.”

“It’s definitely a big change,” Gardiner said of his increased role. “Playing behind Jarred was the best thing I could’ve done, because it helped develop me so much. Everyone always says to not compare myself, but I’m trying to live up to the bigs that came behind me, like Jarred, and I’m ready to keep working the way I am to be the best I can be.”

With a new role comes larger responsibilities, and despite the strong outing, Gardiner was candid about areas that he could’ve improved on in the loss.

“There’s those free throws at the end—I missed four free throws the entire game, went 2-for-6,” he said. “I can’t do that if we’re trying to win. I could’ve played better defense, too. I was dropping too hard in the pick-and-rolls. If I would’ve come up, they would’ve gotten less mid-range shots. I put a lot of this on myself. We need to get better as a team. We’re going to get better and I need to better myself.”

Brenner is in a similar situation with some of his younger teammates, earning a rotation spot after receiving limited opportunities last year.

“It’s all about keeping your head level,” he said. “Not getting too high, not getting too low, and just staying the course. We’ll be alright.”

Associate head coach Sean Coman said he believes the team is better than what their record indicates.

“We’ve been in every game, and we’ve played super hard,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “[We] haven’t finished out games the way we wanted to. But we’re just trying to reiterate to the guys we’re right there, and we’ve got to stick together…We’re still really confident in our guys and the team that we’ve got.”

Coman also touched on the impact of graduate forwards Jerry Lawson and Allen Li and sophomore forward Jeff Tan, who have all remained active participants despite dealing with injuries.

“We’ve got some of the greatest guys in college basketball,” Coman said. “Allen, Jeff and Jerry have really been supportive and positive and trying to do the best they can as teammates. … The guys who have been missing haven’t missed a beat. Each of these guys play for each other, and that’s what makes this group very special.”

As part of their preparation, the team played Twisted Sisters’ “We’re Not Going to Take it” throughout practice on Friday. Curley said that there was a deeper meaning behind the literal title.

“We’re not taking these losses,” he said. “We’re not out here just to have a fun time. We want to win…And there’s a little bit of discipline and a monotony that you have to understand—it’s over and over and over again. You want to do it right, you’ve got to drill it so you’re not thinking about it.”

“We can’t come out here and be happy to be playing college basketball, getting shots, starting, getting minutes, being on the team,” he added. “We want to win.” 

The Lions got back on track with a 73-67 win over Bridgewater State on Tuesday. Gasset Ruiz stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists, four steals and three blocks. Arico finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Armant totaled 12 points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals. First-year forward Caden Zurek led Emerson with 11 rebounds, in addition to six points and two steals.

The Lions will return in 2024 to face Johnson & Wales on Tues., Jan. 2, at 3:00 P.M.

“When we come back, all of the guys are going to be energized again,” Gardiner said. “We get to go home, see our families for the first time this year, and everyone’s going to be energized and pumped to play again. I feel like after the break, we’ll be a full, new team.”

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About the Contributor
Jordan Pagkalinawan, Kasteel Well Bureau Chief
Jordan Pagkalinawan (he/him) hails from Burbank, California, and serves as The Beacon’s Kasteel Well Bureau Chief. A sophomore journalism student with a minor in Sports Communication, he was the sports editor for the Fall 2023 semester and a sports staff writer for most of his first year. Overseeing The Beacon’s operations in the Netherlands, Jordan is committed to elevating high-quality pieces of narrative and multimedia journalism. When he isn’t working for the Beacon, Jordan can be found listening to various genres of music, playing, watching, and writing about basketball, and exploring local bookstores and cafes.
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