The No. 7 Emory men’s basketball team garnered two victories against conference foes New York University (NYU) and Brandeis University (Mass.) over the weekend, improving its University Athletic Association (UAA) record to 11-2. The Eagles checked NYU 96-85 with a record-breaking performance from senior guard Whit Rapp Feb. 16 and bested Brandeis 82-69 Feb. 18, making for a cheerful senior day celebration.
After a Jan. 19 road win over NYU, the Eagles dominated yet again in their offensive game over the Violets at home Feb. 16.
Freshman guard Romin Williams and junior guard Gebereal Baitey led the Eagles in scoring, posting 21 (7-13 shooting) and 20 points (8-12 shooting), respectively. Senior forward Adam Gigax and freshman forward Matt Davet also proved their prowess on the court, contributing 13 points and 11 points, respectively.
But the night belonged to senior guard Whitt Rapp, who recorded 11 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds to make Emory history. With 17 minutes left in the second half, Rapp’s assist to junior forward Beau Bommarito broke Emory’s all-time assist record, besting former guard Austin Claunch’s (12C) record of 580. Rapp stands alone at 583 career assists after Friday’s match.
“Breaking the assist record … was so special to me because it wasn’t just my award,” Rapp said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by some unbelievable players over these last four years, and they have made my job easy. They’re the ones that make me look good.”
With 14 minutes left in the first half, the Violets held a five-point advantage over the Eagles, but after a 17-2 run, the Eagles never looked back. Williams started the barrage by nailing back-to-back threes, while Davet added five points. Later in the half, Williams added three treys, bringing his first-half point total to 17 and helping the Eagles to a 50-36 edge at halftime.
During the second half, the Eagles maintained their offensive onslaught. While NYU fought back with an eight-point deficit on a couple occasions, the Eagles halted every chance the Violets had of coming back. With a 53-45 Eagle advantage and 18 minutes left, five consecutive points from Baitey and a Bommarito three-pointer pushed their lead to 16. After NYU cut the deficit back to eight points late in the half, an Eagle trey by Rapp all but sealed the game.
Emory shot 50.7 percent from the floor and converted a season-high 16 three-pointers in one of their best offensive performances of the season.
Two days later, the Eagles proved once again that they were a force to be reckoned with when they defeated Brandeis on Emory’s senior day.
Davet led the Eagles with 22 points in only 18 minutes of action, while Rapp continued to build on his assist record, adding nine. Meanwhile, senior forward Donald Avant, in his first career-start, provided a massive spark by posting a career-high 17 points on a perfect seven-of-seven from the field and adding a game-high eight rebounds in 18 minutes.
Reflecting on his past four years on the team, Avant said that he anticipated senior day as a special occasion that he celebrated with his family, who visited from out of town.
“Senior day is a day you think, as a freshman, will never come,” Avant said. “Then you look back as a senior, and it feels like the last four years have happened in the blink of an eye. For me personally, it was a special day because it was my first career-start.”
Trailing 46-44 at halftime, the Eagles’ dexterity in the second half stole the win. With the game knotted at 57 points each, the Eagles responded with a 10-0 run, featuring layups from Bommarito and Avant and a pair of threes by Davet, resulting in a 67-57 lead with nine minutes and 22 seconds left.
While the Judges drew close within nine points with less than six minutes left, late baskets by Baitey and Gigax sealed the Eagles’ victory.
In the second half, the Eagles held the Judges to a 29.6 shooting percentage, while shooting 51.7 percent in the decisive half.
The Eagles’ seniors were able to finish their last regular season home game as winners.
“It was a great team win, and I’m glad we were able to close it off in the second half and get the win,” Avant said. “I could not have asked for a better senior day with my family, the three other seniors and the rest of my teammates.”
The Emory Eagles (20-4 overall, 11-2 in UAA) tied the school’s second-highest conference win total with the weekend’s victories.
Emory will close out their regular season with another conference matchup at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) (16-8 overall, 7-6 in UAA) Feb. 24.