Men’s basketball sweeps two-game homestand after thriller v. Wheaton, improves to 10-7

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Photo: Danny Kennedy

The Lions pulled ahead of Wheaton and MIT this past week.

By Jordan Pagkalinawan, Staff Writer, Sports

The Emerson men’s basketball team looked to build off their strong start in conference play following their loss to reigning NEWMAC champions WPI on Jan. 14—and they did just that. The Lions took care of business in their games against Wheaton and MIT, ending last week 5-1 in conference play and 10-7 overall.

The Lions’ Wednesday night match against Wheaton was headlined by the matchup between graduate center Jarred Houston and Wheaton Lyons’ senior forward Aaron Williams who leads the NEWMAC in scoring with 20 points per game. With NEWMAC’s top two centers facing off, the game did not disappoint.

Houston and fellow graduate Nate Martin led the opening charge, helping the team jump to a 12-8 lead within the first five minutes. The team kept their feet on the gas, leading by a staggering  12 points, with buckets from Martin, first year guard Brendan McNamara, senior guard Ben Allen, and senior forward Max Davis, among others, with under seven minutes to go in the first half. Wheaton briefly fought to gain a one-point lead, but the Lions put together a 9-1 run that included “B-Mac” breaking ankles for a two-point jumper with two minutes remaining. Thanks to a pair of free throws by junior guard Trevor Arico, Emerson went into the locker room with a 41-37 lead at halftime.

The Lions and Lyons opened the second half with intensity, with Houston sinking a pair of free throws to bring Emerson’s lead to 45-42. Wheaton tied the game with a corner three at the 17:30 mark, converting easy looks at the rim as the Lions looked for an adequate response. 

The Lions’ response came in the form of a triple from senior guard and captain James Beckwith, who swung the lead back to Emerson, bringing the score to 50-49 with under 16 minutes remaining. Emerson and Wheaton continued to trade buckets, with neither team leading by more than four points.

The Lions’ physical play fought hard to overcome Wheaton’s open shot-making, setting up for a fantastic finish at the Brown-Plofker Gym.

Davis drained a top-of-the-key three that gave Emerson a 77-74 lead with 3:39 minutes remaining, and made a steal on the other end that led to another two free throws. Wheaton continued to fight back, answering every Lions bucket. The late game heroics continued from Davis, who shot a triple with 2:13 minutes remaining to give the Lions a 82-77 lead.  

Wheaton took advantage of two fouls committed by the Lions, gliding to the rim and cutting the lead to one with a minute remaining. Martin’s fadeaway kept Emerson alive with 39 seconds left, giving them an 84-81 lead. A miscommunication on the Wheaton team led to a steal by Arico with 24 seconds remaining. Following free throws from Martin, Wheaton drained a deep three with under 20 seconds left. Martin and McNamara iced the game with free throws for a three-point lead, and Wheaton’s missed three-point heave secured the Lions’ 89-86 victory.

Martin led the way with 24 points, two assists, and one block, while Houston had 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Davis, who started his fifth straight game, logged 16 points and two steals.

Head Coach Bill Curley said he was impressed by many of the players, including McNamara, who “set the tone for how we were going to play,” and graduate guard Sean Coman, who ran the offense and took a charge late in the game.

“As I tell our guys, we didn’t win tonight—we won in our preparation [over] the last two days,” Curley added. “The guys who didn’t get a chance to get in the game, they prepared us well for what we were going to see.”

The head coach also touched on the impact of Davis, who started the last six games and made a significant impact with his scoring and defense.

“Max is clearly one of the better players in the league,” Curley said. “[He’s] just such a talent offensively in the way he sees the ball, and his best talent might be his unselfishness and the way he’s trying to find guys. We really missed [his competitiveness] in the first semester and his fiery attitude.”

The Lions went on to dominate the MIT Engineers on Saturday, winning 89-58. Following a first half that saw MIT go on a 16-6 run to tie the game at 34, the Lions entered halftime with a slim 39-34 lead. They put together an offensive clinic in the second half, led by Beckwith’s four threes in the period, that allowed for a convincing victory.

Beckwith finished the game with 22 points on 8-15 shooting from the field and 5-9 from distance. Additionally, Martin had 15 points with three triples, and Houston finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and seven blocks.

Following another victory over Springfield, the 11-7 Lions return to Brown-Plofker on Feb. 1 against WPI.