The Emory University men’s and women’s basketball teams will travel to Brandeis University (Mass.) Friday and New York University (N.Y.) on Saturday to continue their University Athletic Association (UAA) play this weekend on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1.
Last weekend, the men and women Eagles each defeated both of their hosted opponents — Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) and Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.).
The women, coming back from a pair of road losses against Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.) and the University of Chicago (Ill.) bested the Case Western Spartans 65-62 and the Carnegie Mellon Tartans 62-57.
Things fared even greater for the men who saw a 78-65 win over the Spartans and a 79-53 win over the Tartans. Still, the team has its work cut out for itself this weekend.
“It’s tough to play away, especially with the teams on Friday,” sophomore forward Jim Gordon said. “Both teams are strong and play very well.”
The men are 13-3 on the season, with a record of 9-0 at home and 2-3 away. In the UAA, the team is currently sitting on a 3-2 record, but not for long, according to Gordon.
“NYU has a really good post presence, and they just got a transfer who is supposedly very good,” he said. “We’re at second right now, but if we do well, we can claim first place,” he said.
Gordon is also confident in the team’s morale going into the trip.
“We are definitely confident on going forward, mentally we look at it one game at a time so we stay focused. It’s very doable to handle the games.”
Head Coach Jason Zimmerman echoed Gordon’s one game at a time sentiment.
“Every game, we want to play better. We want to get better through the season. There are only nine games left, so the conference is in the balance and we are looking at playing those nine games the best we can,” he said.
Brandies is a strong opponent, Zimmerman said, but one he is looking forward to.
“We have enough veterans on the team to play those big games who have been in those situations before, so we are looking forward to the challenge this weekend,” he said.
The men have scored an average of 79.8 points per game and the average points scored against them is 68.5.
Senior forward Alex Foster leads the men in points this season, having scored 367 points in 16 games and averaging 22.9 a game. Junior forward Will Trawick follows with 194, also in 16 games.
“We only play one game at a time, and we want to figure out a way to win on Friday,” Zimmerman said. “We can talk about all the other stuff about the rest of the season, but it doesn’t matter right now, only the game on Friday matters.”
Emory’s women are on the uptick. Having won back-to-back games after a tough weekend, Head Coach Christy Thomaskutty is ready for the next challenge.
“From the beginning, we have focused on defense. It starts on the defensive end, and we’ve gotten better,” she said. “This past weekend, we got two wins specifically because of our defense.”
Thomaskutty noted that the team is placing an extra emphasis on taking advantage of certain opportunities.
“One thing we talked about in practice is that we really need to capitalize when we get a steal,” she explained.
Senior guard Ilene Tsao attributes a variety of factors to the team’s improved performance over the weekend.
“It was a combination of a lot of things; losing the two on the road was a wake-up call time and it was time to get to work, time to improve and time to practice,” she said.
And, of course, home court advantage helped keep the team confident.
“Being in front of the home crowd was really a motivator,” Tsao said. “We have a saying: ‘protecting our home’ and protecting our court. They can’t come and take it away from us, that really motivated us. Having our fans there was great.”
Brandies is an especially physical team, but Thomaskutty is confident in the Eagles’ abilities.
“Brandies might have the most athletic guards in the competition, so we want to block them out and get possession,” she said.
Tsao emphasized that the Eagles will have size working against them.
“We are an undersized team, [and] that is also going to be a factor against them,” she said. “We need to be strong and be able to match up against their guards, because that is going to get us the win.”
The women are currently 10-6 overall with a 2- 3 record in the UAA conference. They have scored 1024 points, an average of 64.0 per game, which is 4.3 points more than the aggregate of points against them. Junior guard Khadijah Sayyid currently leads in points at 239 in 16 games, an impressive 14.9 per game. Freshman forward Dumebi Egbuna is second with 130, also in 16 games.
The weekend after the team’s trips, both the men and the women will again take on Brandeis and NYU at home on Feb. 6 and 8.
-By Stephen Jaber, Staff Writer
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