Basketball

The Sacramento Kings routed the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 1  at the newly renovated State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. The 146-115 loss brings the Hawks to a season record of 2-6 while the Kings improve to 6-3.

The Kings led the Hawks 69-64 by the end of the first half with high energy on the defensive end, forcing 13 Hawks turnovers and racking up nine steals. Rookie point guard Trae Young had a team-high of five turnovers in the first half.

The Kings started off strong in the third quarter, outscoring the Hawks 46-23 en route to a 115-87 lead. Sacramento scored 31 more points in the fourth quarter with most of their starters on the bench.

Hawks Head Coach Lloyd Pierce noted that defense was the Hawks’ main weakness this season.

“We know what we can do,” Pierce said in a postgame interview. “You take our stat sheet out and it looks pretty good. So you know there are things that are there when we play well. We’ve got to figure out how to do it on the defensive end.”

The Kings were unstoppable offensively, scoring several fast break baskets, many of them after one of the Hawks’ 22 turnovers. Throughout the game, the Kings infiltrated the paint at will, usually converting inside or dishing back out for a three-pointer. The team finished the game with 38 assists.

The Hawks shot poorly from the three-point line, making only eight of 31 three-point field goal attempts. They also missed 11 free throws, going 23-34 from the line. Point guard Jeremy Lin led the Hawks in scoring, dropping 23 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Young had 14 points and 10 assists, but made zero three-pointers and eight turnovers in only 27 minutes.

Lin acknowledged that the team has often struggled in the third quarter this season and that they frequently find themselves playing behind.

“We just struggled,” Lin said in a postgame interview. “I felt like we ran out of gas or it just didn’t feel like our spirit was there today. … If you don’t have the spirit [and] if you don’t have the defense, your offense won’t flow as well and you’re not going to get wins in this league.”

The promising young backcourt duo of Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox led the Kings’ offense. Hield, a third-year shooting guard out of the University of Oklahoma, scored 27 points on 10 of 17 shooting, including five of seven from three-point range. Fox, the Kings’ point guard and top draft pick out of the University of Kentucky in the 2017 NBA Draft, recorded a monster triple-double, scoring 31 points, dishing out 15 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds in the win.

The Kings have surprised most of the league this season and are currently the fifth seed in the stacked Western Conference; they are fourth in the league in points per game at 119.8 and boast the fifth-highest defensive rating at 107.8.

The Hawks bounced back on Nov. 3 against the Miami Heat, winning 123-118. Young had a solid game, scoring 24 points, dishing out a career-high 15 assists and grabbing five rebounds in the win.

The latest game puts him in elite company, as Young becomes one of four rookies in the past 25 years with a stat line of at least 20/15/5. The other four rookies are reigning Kia Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry and NBA veteran Ramon Sessions.

The Hawks fell back into the loss column against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 6, losing 113-102. Hornets’ star point guard Kemba Walker continued his hot start to the season, recording 29 points and 7 assists. Young impressed again, posting another double-double with 18 points and 11 assists.

Young currently leads all rookies in assists with 7.9 per game and is second to only Dallas Mavericks’ forward Luka Dončić in points per game with 19.1.

The Hawks will play on Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. against the New York Knicks at State Farm Arena.

The Atlanta Hawks defeated the San Antonio Spurs in an exhilarating preseason matchup at McCamish Pavilion at the Georgia Institute of Technology on Oct. 10, with the game’s winner determined in a thrilling last-minute shot from the Hawks.

Hawks rookie point guard Trae Young sealed the deal to the eventful game by making a 30-foot three-pointer that turned the 127-127 tie into the Hawks’ 130-127 lead with just two seconds left to play. The Spurs’ last-second three bounced off the back rim and out, giving the Hawks the win.

Young said the game-winning shot gave him flashbacks to his time at the University of Oklahoma, where people likened his game to two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry.

“The deep shot, when it went in, I definitely had a little flashback to some of the shots I took at Oklahoma,” Young said.Hawks small forward Taurean Prince sparked the Hawks offense early on, scoring 16 of the team’s 32 first-quarter points on 7-8 shooting from the floor.

Hawks Head Coach Lloyd Pierce said after the game that Prince was “as good as [he has] ever seen him play.”

The Spurs controlled much of the first half, but Hawks guard Tyler Dorsey nailed a long two as time expired to bring the halftime score to 64-62 in favor of San Antonio.

The Hawks exploded out of the gate in the third quarter, going on a 15-0 run that helped set the tone for the rest of the game. The Hawks entered the final frame up 100-92.

The Spurs took advantage of several Hawks turnovers and made a comeback in the final quarter with about four minutes left in the game with an 11-0 run that tied the game up at 116.

Young also credited the team’s chemistry for their success on the court.

“We’ve only played a few games with each other, and we feel like we know everything about each other’s games,” Young said. “It’s a great thing.”

Though the regular season hasn’t started yet, Pierce said that he’s learned a lot from his team thus far.

“I think the guys are starting to believe how we want to play,” Pierce said. “There were simple reads, simple plays. To me, that’s the biggest thing. They’re buying in and they’re trusting each other.”

Young started the game ice-cold, scoring his first bucket three minutes into the second quarter. Despite the rough start, he bounced back and finished with 22 points and seven assists, shooting 4-8 from behind the three-point line. Prince ended the game with 25 points on 9-11 shooting for Atlanta.

Despite the loss, the Spurs had nice contributions from a number of players. Forward Rudy Gay  had 28 points on 10-15 shooting from the field, including 3-6 from beyond the three-point arc, while teammate guard Bryn Forbes scored 22 points off the bench.

The Hawks lost their final preseason matchup to the Miami Heat, 119-113 on Oct. 12. Their regular season begins on Oct. 17 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

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.