Because we view players in the NBA as distant superstar athletes, it is hard to remember that players like Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons and Utah Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell are still college-aged kids. Towns would be a senior at the University of Kentucky; Simmons would be a junior at Louisiana State University; and Mitchell would be a junior at the University of Louisville. These players are not alone. Roughly 16 percent of players in the NBA are between 18-22 years old.

As college superstars, some of them saw themselves as normal college kids — our peers, even.

“We are both humans, both college kids, both trying to get through college,” Atlanta Hawks rookie power forward John Collins, 20, told the Wheel. “I just happen to play basketball.”

Yet, they aren’t unaware of their distinct situation.

“Obviously when you’re an athlete, people look at you a little bit differently,” fellow Hawks rookie power forward Tyler Cavanaugh, 24, added.

Indeed, many “one-and-done”s treat college as a stepping stone to fulfill their childhood dreams of playing in the NBA, and leave college after only one year. Boston Celtics rookie forward Jayson Tatum told the Associated Press as much when he decided to enter the NBA after spending one year at Duke University (N.C.).

I’m excited to take the next step in pursuing my lifelong dream of playing basketball at the highest possible level,” Tatum said.

Surely, there were other factors at work for Tatum. For many highly recruited players out of high school like Tatum, failure to declare after just one year of college ball may entail a lower draft spot, which can lead players to miss out on millions of dollars.

For others, like longtime NBA center Kwame Brown who didn’t even go to college, turning pro is about finally being able to make money to provide for themselves and their families.

Many players may have the aspiration to play in the NBA. However, only 60 players are drafted into the NBA annually, only 114 rookies have played in a game this season and only 500 players play in the league. So before a player decides to actively pursue this dream, he must be one of the 500 best basketball players in the world and one of the best 100 players who aren’t already in the NBA, otherwise leaving college early would be fruitless.

Next, a player requests early status from the NBA commissioner at least 60 days before the draft. Typically, players also request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, a group of heads of basketball operations from NBA teams. Because they have scouted most of the college players all year, they will have a consensus on where a player will be drafted — in the lottery, top 10, first round, second round or undrafted. They will give this information to the player, who will then decide whether or not to stay in school or declare for the draft. NBA teams then decide collectively who are the 70 athletes they want to invite to the NBA Draft Combine, where pro scouts evaluate and interview players. For the next 10 days, players can choose to either stay in the draft or return to school. If they choose to stay in the draft, they typically hire an agent.

Once hired, the agent and the player arrange private workouts with teams. The number varies. For some players like Steph Curry, Towns and Lonzo Ball, that may only be one team. Yet there are others like Miami Heat rookie guard Derrick Walton Jr. who can’t even recall the number.

From there, players finally get drafted into the Association. On the court, they need to make a mental adjustment.

“All these guys are pros, the best in the world,” Collins said. “When you go from playing against kids to grown men in the snap of a finger, it wakes you up really quickly and lets you know about the intensity and the focus that goes into every play, and there’s a ton of it.”

That mental shift also comes with their approach to the game.

“Being a pro, there’s pressure everyday to keep getting better and keep paying your rent each day so you can earn your worth,” Cavanaugh said.

Then there is a change in lifestyle.

“In college, they pretty much have everything scheduled for you classes, study hall, practice, travel,“ Cavanaugh said. “When you’re a pro, you have a lot more free time and down time.”

With their newfound freedom, the rookies said they like to explore their new cities. Some like to play video games while others like Cavanaugh like to “watch Netflix and chill.”

Nevertheless, having all that newfound freedom can be overwhelming.

“Sometimes you go blank and got to sit there and figure out what you want to do with all that free time,” Collins said with a chuckle.

Like most things in their lives, I wish I could relate.

Atlanta Hawks small forward Taurean Prince shoots from deep in a matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 10. Prince shot a franchise record 18 three-pointers in the loss. Kevin Kilgour/Former Sports Editor

In the final NBA game played at Philips Arena prior to the upcoming $192 million renovation project, the Atlanta Hawks tacked on one more to the loss column with a 121-113 defeat at the hands of the surging Philadelphia 76ers on April 10. The win marked the 15th straight win for Philadelphia, a new franchise record, while Atlanta finishes its season with a total of 24.

The first quarter saw a relaxed Hawks team keep pace with a heavyweight Sixers team focused on escaping with a valuable win. An early sequence exemplified the atmosphere: With a free lane to the rim, 76ers self-proclaimed Rookie of the Year point guard Ben Simmons layed in a cautious two-handed dunk. Faced with a similar situation just minutes later, Hawks small forward Taurean Prince tossed an alley-oop to power forward John Collins for a tomahawk slam.

The jam set the tone early for the Hawks. After his 33-point performance against the Boston Celtics on April 8, Prince continued to impress. He led the Hawks in scoring with 27 points, including a trio of three-pointers in the first quarter, which garnered a 32-27 lead.

“It feels good, gives me a lot of confidence going into the summer,” Prince said of his recent performances.

Philadelphia shooting guard J.J. Redick answered with some sharp shooting of his own. His 15 points in the first half led the way for the Sixers, who held a slim 61-55 lead at halftime. Redick finished with a game-high 28 points, shooting six of nine from behind the arc.

A total of 18 turnovers, combined with frustration technical fouls by Simmons and Redick, kept Atlanta within reach. Nevertheless, three-point shooting and a balanced scoring effort with key contributions from Philadelphia shooting guard Marco Belinelli (20 points) and former Hawk power forward Ersan Ilyasova (26 points) proved enough to down the short-handed Hawks.

The loss puts to bed a season that Hawks fans would rather soon forget. Atlanta closed out the year with a 24-58 record, good for last place in the Eastern conference, tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the third worst record in the NBA.

“[We] always want to do better than we did this year, but it’s all about progression,” Collins said. “We are young.”

The Hawks hold a 42.3 percent chance of claiming a top-three pick in the 2018 draft, and a 13.7 percent shot at the No. 1 pick, according to Bleacher Report. Hawks fans can also celebrate the Minnesota Timberwolves’ win over the Denver Nuggets on April 12, which clinched a playoff spot for Minnesota and, in doing so, dealt the team’s first-round pick to Atlanta. In addition to the Rockets’ first-round pick, Atlanta now holds three of the first 30 picks in the 2018 Draft.

76ers rookie point guard Ben Simmons discusses the Rookie of the Year Award in a post-game interview. Courtesy of David Nifong

It was a rough year for Hawks fans, but Head Coach Mike Budenholzer expressed his pride in the team’s work ethic, spirit and growth, despite the rebuilding season.

“How [the team] worked tonight, just laying it all on the line — it’s reflective of what they did all year, so I couldn’t be more proud,” Budenholzer said. “The development of a lot of players individually is something that we take a lot of pride in, and it gives us a lot to look forward to.”

Philadelphia still needed one more win on April 11 to secure the No. 3 seed in the East, which they managed to obtain rather handily in a 130-95 annihilation of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Sixers close the regular season with a 52-30 record and will match with the Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

And One:

Utah Jazz rookie shooting guard Donovan Mitchell represents Simmons’ greatest competition for the 2018 Rookie of the Year award. Prior to the Jazz’s game against the Golden State Warriors on April 10, Mitchell wore a sweatshirt sporting the definition of a rookie: “An athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team.”

The sweatshirt was a dig at Simmons, who qualifies as a rookie despite it being his second year in the league.

“If that’s the only argument he has, I’m in pretty good shape,” Simmons said in response. “There’s a [rookie] rule in the NBA for a reason. I’m not gonna wear a sweatshirt tomorrow, though.”

As for Collins’ pick?

“I’mma be biased here and go with my man, Don,” Collins said.

Fresh off punching their ticket to the playoffs in Miami with a Tuesday night win over the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat breezed to another 115-86 victory on Wednesday night in Atlanta, improving their record to 43-36, while the Hawks fell to 22-57.

The game was a test of depth, as key players from both teams were out with injuries. The Hawks played without their regular starters — point guard Dennis Schroder and shooting guard Kent Bazemore — while the Heat were down point guard Goran Dragic, forward James Johnson and shooting guard Dwyane Wade.

“We think it’s smart [for these guys] just to take a day, get treatment and re-evaluate,” Miami Head Coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game.

The entire Heat bench, led by center Kelly Olynyk (19 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and forward Justise Winslow (18 points and five assists), stepped up to power the Heat to victory. The role players outscored the Hawks bench 69-34.

Olynyk sparked the first-half, game-changing run. He scored 12 straight points on four threes, highlighted by rookie power forward Bam Adebayo’s emphatic block (0:34) which led to a fast break pull-up three for Olynyk. Olynyk’s production transformed a 36-28 Hawks lead into a 48-40 Heat advantage.

In the second half, Winslow carried the team. His nine points and three assists in the second half of the third quarter allowed for a Heat explosion from a precarious 64-60 advantage to an 84-68 lead to end the third quarter.  

Because they were playing their second game in as many nights, the Hawks’ energy began to wane midway through the third quarter.  

“The dam broke,”Atlanta Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “The gas tank hit empty.”

The team played hard and kept the game competitive for the first half, but their shots just wouldn’t fall in the second half.

But the night wasn’t all bad for Hawks fans. While one fan won a Kia during halftime, Hawks small forward Taurean Prince had an efficient 20 points on 8-14 shooting. In addition, Hawks rookie shooting guard Damion Lee, making only ninth start of the season in his 12th game with the team after coming up from the G League, scored nine of the team’s first 13 points, racking up 15 total.

Lee’s fast start clearly indicates he isn’t afraid of the NBA competition.

“I just come out here and play with confidence,” Lee said. “Everyone that’s on the team has told me [to] do what got you here. Go out there and just hoop.”

Unfortunately, when Prince’s and Lee’s shots went cold in the third quarter, the Hawks couldn’t stay in the game. The Heat tore a 45-14 run to ensure the blowout.

Nevertheless, the fact that Prince and Lee, who have only been in the NBA for a combined three seasons, are already making important contributions against a quality opponent like the Heat is a great sign for the team, even if their efforts don’t translate to wins. But the Hawks still need to find a franchise player in the upcoming NBA draft. The worse their record, the more likely the team will end up with a high draft spot to select a franchise player that will help bring the Hawks back to the playoffs.

The Hawks will play the Washington Wizards in Washington, D.C., on April 6 at 7 p.m.

Hawks rookie shooting guard Tyler Dorsey goes in for a field goal in a matchup against the Orlando Magic at the Philips Arena on April 1. Dorsey finished with a team-high of 19 points on eight of 11 shooting off the bench. Kevin Kilgour/Senior Staff Writer

In a tight battle between two NBA featherweights, the Atlanta Hawks scored a slim 94-88 victory over the slumping Orlando Magic at Philips Arena on April 1. It was the 11th loss in 13 games for Orlando, who inched nearer to Atlanta for the coveted last-place spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

With various injuries (of varying legitimacy) plaguing the two squads, the starting lineups for Sunday’s matchup read more appropriately as a distasteful April Fool’s joke. Point guard Dennis Schroder and shooting guard Kent Bazemore will sit out for the remainder of the Hawks’ season, leaving Atlanta to field a starting lineup with a combined six years of NBA experience against Orlando.

The lack of experience was evident early in Sunday’s contest, as Atlanta struggled with shot selection — that is, until Atlanta power forward and rookie phenom John Collins drove the lane for an authoritative one-handed slam. The play was a turning point for Atlanta: From then on, the offense found its flow.

For a team lacking experience, Atlanta played an effective pass-first offense that created a healthy dose of open looks. Atlanta finished the game shooting 48.2 percent from the field off 33 assists, compared to Orlando’s 34.4 percent shooting off 19 assists. The Hawks led at the half, 56-43.

“We came out moving the ball, spreading the ball, playing as a team,” Collins said. “Everybody got pass-happy. That’s how basketball is supposed to be: fun, moving the ball, everybody gets involved.”

Orlando pushed back in the second half, but poor shooting due in part to a shifty defensive scheme that showed both man-to-man and a rare NBA zone kept the visitors unsettled. Star forward Aaron Gordon connected on only four of 13 shots for a meager 10 points, but no Magic player struggled as mightily as center Nikola Vucevic, who made only three of his 19 field goal attempts.

Despite a dismal shooting performance, Orlando stuck around. But with the Magic trailing by just two points late in the fourth quarter, Atlanta rookie shooting guard Tyler Dorsey scored five straight points to close the deal. His three-pointer with a minute and 59 seconds remaining pushed the lead back to five, followed quickly by a driving lay-in on the Hawks’ next possession that suddenly put Atlanta safely up seven.

“I seen [sic] that I had a mismatch,” Dorsey said of his critical three-point bucket. “His hands was [sic] down, and I just let it fly. I work on that shot a lot.”

Dorsey finished with a team-high of 19 points on eight of 11 shooting off the bench.

Orlando power forward Jonathan Isaac watches in defensive mode as the Hawks attempt to tip-in. 13,587 seats out of the 21,000 in Philips Arena were filled that night during Atlanta’s slim 94-88 victory. Kevin Kilgour/Senior Staff Writer

Hawks shooting guard DeAndre’ Bembry returned to the floor for the first time in over a month on Sunday night. Bembry struggled with a multitude of injuries this season that limited him to just 21 games played prior to Sunday night’s meeting with the Magic. Bembry finished with four points, three assists and three rebounds in 14 minutes of play.

“This life, you just gotta get through it and push through it,” Bembry said. “Mentally, I’m good now. I am just trying to physically get back out there.”

The win halts Atlanta’s losing streak at five and improves their season record to 22-55, while Orlando inches closer to last place at 22-54. Next up for Atlanta is a home and away series against the Miami Heat, beginning on April 3 in Miami.

And One:

Atlanta tied the NBA record for fewest free throw attempts in a game, with only one attempt from the charity stripe. How strange is it to get to the line just one time over the course of a 48-minute game? “Very,” said Atlanta Head Coach Mike Budenholzer.

Collins is shooting 58.6 percent from the field, which would be the third highest single season field goal percentage for a rookie, behind just Steve Johnson (61.3 percent) and Otis Thorpe (60 percent). Antoine Carr currently holds the record for the Hawks franchise, when he shot 52.8 percent as a rookie for the Hawks in 1984-85.

The South region of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament continued the theme of upsets. No. 11 seed Loyola University Chicago beat No. 7 seed University of Nevada, Reno 69-68 in a nail-biting Sweet 16 victory on March 22 in Atlanta, Ga., while No. 9 seed Kansas State University defeated the heavily favored No. 5 seed University of Kentucky 61-58. In the South Regional final on March 24, Loyola, the Cinderella team, left the Elite Eight victorious with a 78-62 win against Kansas State to advance to the Final Four.

The Ramblers suffered early in the first half of their Sweet 16 matchup, trailing 12 points by the end of the first 10 minutes.

But Loyola bounced back with a 20-4 run in the second 10 minutes of the first half. A huge contributor to the Ramblers’ run was the aggressive play of senior guard Clayton Custer whose buzzer beater in the previous round eliminated the University of Tennessee in the 32nd round. Custer finished the game with 15 points and four assists on 7-9 shooting. Twin forwards Caleb and Cody Martin led the Nevada effort with 21 and 16 points, respectively.

Custer actually has a special previous connection with Atlanta and Emory. According to an NBC 11 report, Clayton used to visit Atlanta, while his brother, Brandon Custer (07C), was a member of the 2004-07 Emory baseball team.

Both teams played most of the second half neck-and-neck, providing an answer for every attempt at a run.

Loyola refused to back down as their guards’ aggressive play and determination to reach the basket never wavered. Their willingness to pass up shots for better opportunities highlighted their offensive display. The Ramblers demonstrated strong possession tactics, sometimes making more than five passes and using an array of shot fakes for open shot attempts.

Appropriately, junior guard Marques Townes sealed the game for the Ramblers with a three-pointer assisted by Custer. Townes capitalized on a shot fake with six seconds remaining in the game to advance 69-65. Caleb Martin netted a fruitless three-pointer on the other end in garbage time, finishing the game 69-68.

In the second game on March 22, Kansas State defeated the University of Kentucky 61-58 in what was thought to be Kentucky’s opportunity for a Final Four run.

Kansas State came prepared, opening the game on a 13-1 run in the first four minutes of the game.

Kentucky kept the game competitive going into the second half largely through the offensive efforts of freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his ability to draw contact and reach the free-throw line. Alexander scored 10 points from the free-throw line in the first half alone, finishing with 15 points in the game on 11-12 shooting from the charity stripe.

In what turned out to be a physical match, the onslaught of fouls slowed the tempo. Both teams reached the double bonus threshold of 10 team fouls early in each half. Kansas State attempted 22 free throws in the game, converting 14 as a team, while Kentucky shot an astounding 37 free throws, knocking down 23.

However, Kansas State sophomore forward Xavier Sneed’s second half heroics proved too much for Kentucky to handle. Sneed finished the game with 22 points, shooting 5-8 from three-point range.

Kentucky’s loss represented a missed opportunity for one of college basketball’s blue blood programs to make a Final Four run in a region where the top four seeds failed to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004.

In the South Regional’s final matchup, Loyola punched their ticket to the Final Four through a domineering effort against Kansas State en route to a 78-62 victory.

The Ramblers maintained control of the game with a balanced scoring effort. The team shot an efficient 57 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three. Senior guard Ben Richardson led the team’s offense, finishing the game with 23 points and 6-7 from downtown.

The Ramblers aim to continue the Cinderella run at the Final Four against the University of Michigan in San Antonio, Texas, on March 31 at 6:09 p.m.

Junior guard Gebereal Baitey drives the lane in the Eagles’ second round match. Parth Mody/Photo Editor

The Emory men’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 after the Eagles stomped Berry College (Ga.) 91-72 on March 2 and narrowly escaped LeTourneau University (Texas) 83-82 on March 3 during the opening two rounds of the NCAA Division III Tournament hosted at the Woodruff P.E. Center.

The Eagles held their first matchup against the Berry Vikings in a game largely determined by a massive second-half run.

Freshman guard Romin Williams achieved a game-high 25 points on eight-of-16 shooting, which led a quartet of Eagles in double-figure scoring. Senior forward Christopher Avant contributed 16 points and a team-high six rebounds, while senior guard Whit Rapp added 14 points and eight assists that night. Junior guard Gebereal Baitey rounded out the group with 12 points.

From the onset, the Eagles established themselves offensively and led the entire first half.

Leading 24-19 with 9 minutes and 56 seconds remaining in the first, the Eagles went on a 13-4 run. Following a pair of converted free throws, the Eagles scored through an Avant jumper, a Rapp layup and a three by senior forward Adam Gigax, bringing their advantage to 37-23.

In the second half, the Vikings claimed their first lead six minutes in. With 14 minutes and 20 seconds remaining, a jumper by junior forward Elijah Hirsh gave the Vikings a 54-53 advantage.

But that was the only lead the Vikings held for the rest of the match.

The Eagles embarked on a blistering 32-10 run that left the Vikings helpless, trailing 85-64 with 2 minutes and 53 seconds remaining. The Eagles’ defensive pressure and forced turnovers largely accounted for the Emory’s’ sudden offensive onslaught. In the second half, the Vikings endured 11 turnovers in addition to their 10 from the first period. The Eagles, on the other hand, garnered 11 total.

“Our game against Berry was a fight,” Rapp said. “They’re an aggressive team and brought an incredible crowd with them as well. The atmosphere inside the WoodPEC was the best it has been in my four years here at Emory.”

Rapp added that the team used the crowd’s energy and channeled it into a successful run late in the second half.

Freshman guard Romin Williams engages in a struggle for the ball against a Berry College (Ga.) defender at the WoodPEC March 2. Williams led both teams with 25 points. Parth Mody/Photo Editor

The Eagles’ second-round matchup against the LeTourneau Yellowjackets proved a stiffer challenge that was decided in the final minute.

Avant led five double-digit scorers with a season-high 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including the biggest layup of the game. Baitey posted 15 points on 7-of-11 field goals, while Gigax contributed 14 points. Williams and junior guard Beau Bommarito added 11 and 10, respectively. Rapp added to his growing assist record by dishing out 13 dimes.

“As far as my 22-point performance versus LeTourneau, I’m not ready to be done playing this game,” Avant said of his senior season. “I’m having too much fun right now and love playing with this group of guys. We are playing our best basketball right now and look to continue to get better going into the weekend.”

Continuing their offensive prowess from the night before, the Eagles led for much of the first half.

In the opening frame, Emory led by as much as 15 points, thanks in large part to duo of Baitey and Avant scoring 11 points each.

Emory Head Coach Jason Zimmerman gets vocal on the court. Zimmerman discussed the NCAA tournament in the March 4 edition of Hoopsville. Parth Mody/Photo Editor

With a 46-37 lead at the start of the second, the Eagles held a marginal advantage throughout much of the rest of the game. But the Yellowjackets remained within striking distance.

With nine minutes left, the Yellowjackets cut the lead to three, 66-63, following a three-point jumper by sophomore guard Nate West. The Eagles responded in kind with a run of their own over the next five minutes that pushed the lead back up to eight, 79-71.

West embarked on a solo-run to push LeTourneau back into the game. After a pair of Yellowjacket free throws, West converted an and-one layup and a three-pointer to narrow the deficit to 81-79. In response, Avant made a clutch layup off a beautiful ‘Rapp’-around assist from Emory’s all-time assist leader to notch the Eagles an 83-79 edge. But immediately after, West again converted a step-back three to trim Emory’s lead to just one point.

Chaos ensued. With 13 seconds remaining, the referee sent Rapp to the line after a foul. On Rapp’s first try from the charity stripe, an official called Emory for a rare lane violation, resulting in a turnover on possession and a chance for the Yellowjackets to win the game. Riding the hot-hand, West hoisted a three-point attempt that didn’t fall. Rapp came away with the final rebound that sent the Eagles to the next round.

“Every night is a battle, and we are going to get every team’s best shot,” Avant said. “We felt very comfortable playing at home, and it helped tremendously having a good group of fans supporting us both night.”

Senior forward Adam Gigax finesses the ball past a LeTourneau forward at the WoodPEC March 3. Gigax contributed 14 points to the winning effort. Parth Mody/Photo Editor

With the victory, the Eagles tied their second-best ever win total of a season with 23, trailing only the 1989-1990 Emory team.

The Eagles will head to Augustana College (Ill.) to face University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh on March 9 at 5:30 p.m. CST.

Correction (3/7/18 at 9:29 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated that, during the LeTourneau University (Texas) game, the Eagles’ lead in the last five minutes was 79-7, when in fact the score should have read 79-71. The story has been updated to reflect this fact.

The Atlanta Hawks put up a strong fight in a 114-109 match-up with reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors on March 2.

Highlights from the game included a career-high 29-point scoring effort from Hawks shooting guard Kent Bazemore and a standout offensive performance from point guard Dennis Schroder, who finished with 27 points and nine assists. As good as Bazemore and Schroder were, the Dubs stayed true to their nickname as they left Atlanta with yet another win despite Curry’s ankle injury in the first quarter.

The Warriors entered the matchup boasting a 48-14 record, while the Hawks held a meager 19-43 record. Sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference, they trail only the Memphis Grizzlies for the league’s worst record.

Atlanta started off strong in the first quarter, thanks to two quick three-pointers from small forward Taurean Prince. Prince built on his recent five-game string of solid performances in which he has posted averages of 15.6 points per game.

But a few key turnovers mid-quarter allowed the Warriors to get in transition and regain control of the game. Curry and Durant combined for 18 of Golden State’s first 25 points in the quarter en route to taking a 33-31 lead.

Although Curry suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter, he returned later in the second quarter before leaving the game for good in the second half. During Curry’s absence in the second quarter, shooting guard Nick Young filled the offensive void, starting a 10-0 run with eight points and an assist during the stretch.

“When you lose one of the best players in the league, it has an impact on the game,” Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Hopefully, we put [Curry] through the grinder, but [the Warriors] had guys step up and make plays. Nick Young killed us in the first half.”

With a 62-50 lead at the half, Golden State dazzled with superior ball movement, holding a 22-10 assist margin over Atlanta.

Despite the Warriors’ seeming omnipotence, the Hawks persisted, staying in the game in part due to a tremendous second-half display from Bazemore on both ends of the floor.

“Bazemore was great,” Budenholzer said. “There were a couple times where we were down 10-12 or more, and he made big plays and defended really well against [Golden State shooting guard] Klay [Thompson].”

Bazemore’s career high scoring performance was spectacular considering he was competing against several of his former teammates. His previous stint with the Warriors only improved his attack. Bazemore mentioned his special connection with Thompson.

“It’s kind of a like a secret rivalry that we still have,” Bazemore said. “Klay and I, he was one of the first guys that I started guarding [in practice]. He’s gotten so much better and has taken tremendous steps [in his game].”

Another saving grace for the Hawks was their ability to force turnovers. Coming into the game, the team led the NBA in turnovers forced with 16 per game. Atlanta has also scored 18.6 points per game off turnovers, good for No. 2 in the NBA.

“[The Warriors] are hard to guard, but we were really engaged defensively,” Budenholzer said. “The turnovers ignited our pace.”

An unbelievable buzzer beater shot from Schroder just in front of half court capped off the third quarter. The miraculous shot cut Golden State’s lead down to six, 90-84, going into the fourth quarter.

In the final quarter, the Warriors’ dominant ball movement gave them easy looks to maintain a lead. To make matters worse, Golden State gave Atlanta a taste of its own medicine as the reigning champs forced numerous turnovers.

Despite the setbacks, the Hawks hung around due to the scoring efforts from Bazemore and Schroder, who both consistently created offense. Bazemore achieved a career high 29 points in the game, while Schroder produced an impressive stat line of 27 points and nine assists.

Down the stretch, Schroder stayed aggressive and cut the lead to two after obtaining a foul off a three-pointer attempt, while also converting all three free throws in the game.

When it mattered most in crunch time, Warriors small forward Andre Iguodala made a huge steal when the Hawks were looking for a game-tying shot with 15 seconds left. Iguodala dunked the ball on the other end which iced the game for the Warriors, who pulled out a 114-109 victory in what turned out to be a much more thrilling contest than expected.

“[The game was] a great effort from our guys,” Budenholzer said. “We felt like we got better as the game went on. There were still mistakes in the first half but we got better and better as the game went on.”

The Hawks bounced back at home March 4 in a tight 113-112 win over the Phoenix Suns before dropping their next contest on the road March 6 against the East-leading Toronto Raptors, 106-90. Atlanta’s road trip will continue March 9 when the team travels to Indiana for a meeting with 2018 Most Improved Player candidate Victor Oladipo and the Pacers.

The Emory men’s basketball team increased their winning streak to five after they defeated the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Yellowjackets 71-61 in both teams’ final regular season game Feb. 24. With this victory, the No. 7 Eagles finish the regular season with a 21-4 overall record and 12-2 in the University Athletic Association (UAA).

Freshman forward Matt Davet led the Eagles in scoring, shooting 6-9 and securing 16 points. The senior duo of guard Whit Rapp and center Christopher Avant rounded out Emory’s double figure-scorers with 12 points apiece.

“Winning 21 games overall, and 12 games in conference, is tough to do, and that’s something to celebrate,” Avant said. “We have grown a lot throughout the year, individually and as a team.”

Throughout the first half, the Eagles seemed to hold the upper hand. After only seven minutes of action, the Eagles held a 10-8 advantage. A quick 7-2 run led by junior guard Beau Bommarito pushed the Eagles’ lead to 17-10. The team held a 10-point edge with three minutes left in the first half, but a three-point shot by freshman guard Romin Williams and layups by Davet and Avant pushed the score to 38-24.

But the Eagles had to withstand a furious Yellowjacket rally. A layup by Avant gave the Eagles a 12-point lead with 16 minutes left. Nonetheless, the Yellowjackets blazed to a 12-1 run that left them with a mere one-point deficit. While a couple of buckets from Davet helped Emory to a 59-53 edge with under seven minutes in play, the Yellowjackets erased the Eagles’ margin, tying the game at 59 with four minutes remaining.

Despite the deadlock, a crucial final two minutes pushed the Eagles to victory. Emory scored the final nine points of the game, highlighted by a three-pointer from senior forward Adam Gigax and four high-pressure free throws by Davet and Rapp. The Eagles’ performance secured the team’s 12th win in the UAA.

“I’m proud of how we finished,” Rapp said. “We had a lot of contributions from multiple guys along the way, and we want to continue with that same drive heading into the postseason.”

After a triumphant end to the regular season, the Eagles have turned their focus to the next item on their agenda the NCAA Division III tournament.

“For us veterans, we are hungry to keep the season alive going into the national tournament,” Avant said. “We have made some great runs in the tournament the past several years but are looking to take it further than ever before.”

Rapp, who recently broke Emory’s all-time assist record, hopes to make the most of his final tournament campaign.

“It’s a new season now, and we will take it one game at a time,” Rapp said. “And hopefully in three weeks, we’ll have six more wins.”

Emory will host Berry College (Ga.) in the first round of the NCAA DIII tournament Friday, March 2. It will be the two teams’ second meeting this season: Emory came out on top in a high-scoring affair, 109-103, at Berry Nov. 21.

Sophomore guard Allison Chernow (center) skies for a layup in the Eagles’ defeat against New York University Feb. 16. Forrest Martin/Staff

Emory women’s basketball had two respectable performances over the weekend with a close defeat at the hands of New York University (NYU) Feb. 16 and a victory in a balanced effort against Brandeis University (Mass.) Feb. 18.

The two games bring the Eagles to an overall record of 13-11, 7-6 in the University Athletic Association (UAA).

In the game against NYU, Emory looked to build on the success they had last weekend when they defeated Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) and Case Western Reserve (Ohio) on the road. The Eagles had three double-figure scorers: Sophomore forward Erin Lindahl (11 points), junior guard Azzairia Jackson-Sherrod (12 points) and junior center Ashley Oldshue (17 points) who also shot a perfect 4-4 from the charity stripe. Emory also received a big spark off the bench in what turned out to be a standout cameo appearance by sophomore point guard Hazel Carmona.

“Carmona plays the one or two guard for us,” Oldshue said. “She scored seven points in two minutes in the first half, which was big for us. We had a lot of trouble scoring on their defense where they pack the lane, which helped our guards get more space to attack the basket.”

After Emory fell into a hole at halftime, Emory lost in close fashion as the gap proved too much to overcome. The Eagles fell to NYU 63-58. The unrecoverable deficit in the game highlights a larger trend that Oldshue said is an area upon which the team is looking to improve.

“We have struggled with cutting off [the] team’s momentum all season,” Oldshue said. “We had some trouble scoring in the second, and they came out aggressive for the entire game. We have to be more aware of when a run is starting and try to cut it off earlier.”

Despite the Eagles’ deficit going into halftime, the team responded well to start the second half, giving themselves a chance down the stretch.

“We just started playing tougher and more [aggressively] to match their physicality,” Oldshue said. “NYU is always a good hustle team with good physicality. We made a few offensive adjustments which helped. If we had started to build momentum earlier, [then] it could have changed the course of the game more.”

In the end, Emory failed to make a comeback due to losing key battles on the glass.

“Down the stretch, there were [a] couple times where we gave up too many second chances,” Oldshue said. “[Head Coach Misha Jackson] always says we have lost when the rebound margin is close or we are behind in it. It was more things we could have done earlier than final plays, in retrospect.”

Emory’s balanced effort on both ends of the floor defined the game against Brandeis.

“Against Brandeis, we were a pretty balanced team,” Oldshue said. “[Sophomore guard] Allison [Chernow] was shooting well and Erin [Lindahl] was playing really hard. [Sophomore guard] Safiya [Dzotsi] is always playing hard. It was a good balance compared to games we’ve had this year.”

Trailing by four at the half, the Eagles responded by taking a commanding eight-point lead going into the fourth quarter. The 12-point swing proved critical in pulling out a 57-50 victory.

“We took the aggressor role in the second half to control the tempo and make them defend all the options we have in our offense,” Oldshue said. “It was partly a toughness piece more in the second half then we had in the first.”

The team addressed ball security between the games. The significantly lower turnover margin proved to be a pivotal factor in their victory against Brandeis. Another key area was improving on the boards, which was a big factor in Emory’s loss against New York.

The game against Brandeis also happened to be the final home game of the season for Emory. With no seniors on the roster, the Eagles faced an unusual scenario on what would have normally been the team’s senior day celebration. The team has embraced its relative youth, and players believe it will benefit them moving forward.

“It doesn’t really impact us on a team dynamic perspective,” Oldshue said, referring to the team’s lack of seniors. “We only have three upperclassmen. We definitely have a young team. It helps with confidence going into next year knowing everyone is returning.”

The Eagles are set to close out their regular season at Rochester University (N.Y.) Feb. 24 at 2 p.m.