The men’s basketball team opened its season on a strong note, sweeping the Black Tie Classic in Birmingham, Ala. The Eagles posted a 98-70 win over the Huntingdon College (Ala.) Hawks on Friday and a 90-80 victory over the University of the Ozarks (Ark.) on Saturday to start the season 2-0.
“We’re 2-0,” Head Coach Jason Zimmerman said. “That’s a great weekend. We weren’t looking at the weekend trying to win two games, we wanted to win each game separately.”
Emory got out quickly against Huntingdon and never looked back, riding a 51 percent field goal percentage â€” including 55 percent from three-point territory â€” to a 52-35 halftime lead.
Junior guard McPherson Moore contributed 12 of his 15 points in the first half, including a key three-pointer that gave the Eagles an 18-8 lead just seven minutes into the contest.
The Eagles ran the lead to 20 points on a series of big plays from senior guard Alex Greven with nine minutes remaining in the half. Greven first converted on a three-point play, following a layup with a foul shot, then found senior forward Michael Friedberg for a three-pointer.
The team’s second half was equally dominant. A 7-0 run to open the halfâ€”the first four points of which were provided by junior forward Jake Davisâ€”gave the Eagles a 59-35 lead.
The Hawks responded with a run of their own, scoring 11 unanswered points to cut the lead to 14 with 15 minutes remaining. But the Eagles halted the run with a Davis layup and went the rest of the way unchallenged.
Five players landed in double digits for the Eagles, led by Davis’ 21 points on nine for 12 shooting. Friedberg and Moore both contributed 15, with Moore going three for four from beyond the arc.
Greven and sophomore forward Alex Foster were the other two double-digit producers, notching 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Sophomore guard Josh Schattie led the team in rebounds with eight, while sophomore guard Michael Florin contributed a team-high seven assists.
The Eagles shot 55 percent from the field, including an impressive 50 percent from three-point range, but made just 53 percent of their free throws. They held the Hawks to 43 percent shooting.
“I think the team played well,” Greven said. “We had a lot of different guys step up to make big plays in certain situations. At the same time even if we win games, we use each game as a learning opportunity to figure out how we can improve and what we need to do better.”
Emory was in for a tougher test in the Black Tie Classic finale against the Ozarks, but still started quickly en route to a 43-29 halftime lead.
Moore, Greven, and Davis fueled the Eagles in the first half, combining to shoot 58 percent in the game’s first twenty minutes. With the score at 20-16 with just over seven minutes left in the half, Davis spurred a 14-4 run with seven consecutive points to give the Eagles a cushion.
Florin stretched the lead to 16 points early in the second half with a pair of free throws, but the Ozarks came roaring back. A 9-0 Ozarks run cut the score to 58-53 about midway through the second half.
“We lost a little bit of focus in the second half, and Ozarks really came out strong,” Zimmerman said.
Florin responded again with a key three-point play, followed by a pair of free throws from Davis and a three-pointer from senior guard Nash Oh to push the lead back to double digits.
The Ozarks weren’t finished. Another run made the game 74-70 with just four minutes left to play, but again the Eagles found their way to the free throw line with Greven knocking down a pair to stop the bleeding.
The Ozarks kept it close, but Greven paced the Eagles with five points in the final minute of play as Emory hung on for the ten-point win.
Greven led the team with 25 points â€” including a decisive 10 for 11 from the charity stripe â€” 14 of which came in the second half. Davis contributed 21 points, making it 27 straight games in which he has scored double figures. The two added nine and eight rebounds, respectively.
Moore contributed 18 points and eight rebounds, while Florin led the team in assists with four.
The Eagles were actually outshot by the Ozarks, finishing with a 44 percent field goal percentage as opposed to the Ozarks’ 45 percent, but they finished with key edges in three-point buckets, 8 to 3, and rebounds, 44-38.
“It was really important to win the first two games,” Greven said. “I mean, we aim to win every game, and want to get better everyday. It is good to set the tone at the beginning of the season so we have momentum going forward.”
The Eagles will try to extend their winning streak when they play their first home game of the season against Berry College on Tuesday, November 20th at 7 p.m.
â€” By Ryan Smith