The Emory men’s basketball team clinched the University Athletic Association (UAA) title after defeating the University of Rochester Yellowjackets (N.Y.), 92-82, on Feb. 23.
With the win, the Eagles automatically advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament, marking their seventh consecutive appearance in the tournament and eighth overall. The Eagles won three straight games and finished their regular season overall record at 20-5, 11-3 in the UAA conference.
This is the seventh time in program history and sixth in the last nine seasons that the Eagles reached 20 wins in the regular season.
During the final game of the regular season, six Eagles finished in double figures. Sophomore forward Lawrence Rowley led the Eagles in scoring with 19 points off the bench on 7-of-10 shooting, his 22nd double-digit effort of the season. Additionally, sophomore guards Nick Stuck and Matt Schner recorded 15 points each. Sophomore forward Matt Davet contributed 13 points while sophomore guard Romin Williams and senior guard Gebereal Baitey finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Schner acknowledged his teams versatility on the offensive end.
“Our team has shown what we are capable of on the offensive end throughout the regular season,” he said.
In the opening half, the Eagles initially led the Yellowjackets 20-17 with 8:38 remaining. Then, Emory went on a 12-4 spurt to claim its largest lead of the half, 32-21, with 5:03 left on the clock. Rochester retaliated, cutting the deficit to just three with 1:52 in the half, but Baitey sank a jumper and Stuck nailed a three-pointer to extend the Eagles’ lead to 40-32 at the half.
After the break, the Eagles and the Yellowjackets traded numerous baskets, which resulted in 10 lead changes. While the Yellowjackets held a 69-68 lead with 7:19 remaining, the Eagles exploded for a 13-1 run, accumulating a 84-72 advantage with 3:02 on the clock. The Eagles persevered and defeated Rochester 92-82 to clinch their sixth UAA title and advance to the NCAA tournament.
Rowley said it means a lot that the Eagles qualified for the NCAA tournament.
“Making the NCAA tournament is always a major season goal for us,” Rowley said. “Our coaching staff often reminds us that we have to earn the right to play for championships and that it isn’t handed to us. Going into the tournament, we know we have to take it one game at a time and come ready to play our best basketball.”
The Eagles boasted a strong offensive outing, shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from the three point line. Additionally, Emory converted 40 points in the paint, dished 13 assists, collected 36 rebounds, scored 11 fastbreak points and recorded an astonishing 59 bench points from Rowley, Williams, Davet and Schner.
Defensively, Emory held Rochester to 45.2 percent shooting from the field and 26.3 percent from beyond the arc. Emory also capitalized off the Yellowjackets’ 9 turnovers, scoring 15 points off their mistakes.
The Eagles will begin the NCAA tournament against Wittenberg University (Ohio) on March 1.
Schner noted how Emory plans to play against Wittenberg.
“Wittenberg is a tremendous program with a very talented basketball team this year,” Schner said. “Playing with great pace will be vital to help give us opportunities to score in transition and in our motion. Great teams play their best basketball in March and we’ll be striving to do that at Guilford this weekend.”