Needing two wins at home in order to keep pace with UAA league leaders Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.) (7-0) and Rochester University (N.Y.) (6-1), the Eagles delivered. Starting with a win Friday over Brandeis University (Mass.), 94-85, the Eagles completed the weekend sweep Sunday by handing New York University its fifth straight loss in UAA play, 84-75. The two wins boost Emory’s record to 14-4 for the year, with a 5-2 record in UAA play.
Taking on the visiting Brandeis Judges in their weekend opener Friday, the Eagles looked as if this game would be business as usual. Up 27-19 with seven minutes to go in the first half, Emory looked poised to maintain the lead for the remainder of the half.
Looks can be deceiving. In the final seven minutes of the half, the Judges would go on a 24-4 run, spurred by a stretch of 14 straight missed Emory field goals. The run pushed the Judges to a commanding 12-point lead at the half, 43-31.
“They were playing to their strengths while we were making mistakes,” Head Coach Jason Zimmerman said. “We were playing okay early, but then there was a stretch where we didn’t guard and we didn’t hit shots.”
Stretching their lead to 17 in the second half, the Judges held a 10-point lead with only five minutes remaining. Senior guards Tim Reale and Jack Fay were a big part of the Judges’ success, each putting up 19 points while shooting a combined 61 percent from the field.
But no lead in this game was safe. Battling back, the tide turned Emory’s way after junior forward Adam Gigax knocked down a long three-pointer from what seemed like the Peavine parking lot, bringing the Eagles within three (75-78) with under three minutes left. A minute later, two free throws from Gigax brought Emory to 79-78.
“Coach [Zimmerman] always tells us that in basketball, you are never out,” senior forward Jim Gordon said. “I knew we had it in us. I’m going to take some words from Joel Embiid, but ‘trust the process’. We came together and got the win.”
With the Eagles holding a three-point lead, Fay made a critical three-point basket with only 13 seconds remaining, sending the game into overtime tied at 81.
“When we came back and tied it, we said it was over,” Gordon said. “They had their chance, but now we had the opportunity to take it [ourselves].”
In overtime it was all Emory. Helped by buckets from Gordon, Rapp and Gigax, the Eagles outscored the Judges 13-4 to clinch the 94-85 victory.
In similar fashion Sunday against NYU, the Eagles jumped out to an early lead. However, New York’s 8-0 run to close out the final two minutes of the half trimmed an 11-point lead down to three, with Emory clinging to a 42-39 advantage.
The teams were neck-and-neck through the second half, with Emory attempting to break away on several occasions only to be denied by New York. The battle between Rapp and NYU junior guard Ross Udine took center stage, with Udine pouring in 21 points and 5 assists, while Rapp set an Emory single-game record with 16 assists that afternoon.
In the end, the performances of Rapp, Gigax (27 points, 10 rebounds) and Gordon (18 points, 7 rebounds) propelled the Eagles over a young New York team, 84-75.
A sense of deja vu may be inevitable next weekend when the Eagles repeat their schedule, facing off once again against Brandeis on Friday before a rematch with New York Sunday in the Big Apple.