The Emory University men’s and women’s basketball teams celebrated senior day with their final regular season and University of Athletic Association (UAA) matchup against the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Yellowjackets on Feb. 26. The men capped off their impressive regular season with a win, while the women saw their season come to an end with a hard-fought loss.
The Emory Eagles went head-to-head with Rochester in hopes of winning their last game of the season. The Yellowjackets, however, grabbed an early lead by taking advantage of four Emory turnovers, putting the score at 12-16 at the end of the first quarter. Emory’s field percentage increased from 29.4% in the first quarter to 33.3% in the second, but their sharp shooting was not enough to give them the edge and they finished the first half trailing 25-32.
The third quarter was the only quarter that the Eagles outscored the Yellowjackets. Scoring 15 points, the Eagles narrowed the gap to 45-40 at the end of the quarter. Rochester, however, outpaced Emory in the fourth quarter. Fouls from senior forward Tori Huggins, senior forward Anna Arato and junior guard Claire Brock gave Rochester the opportunity to pile on free throw points, and when the buzzer sounded the score was 70-55. The Eagles struggled to hit their shots, only shooting 29.9% overall and 18.2% of their 3-point attempts. Brock, however, contributed 20 points, making this her sixth game of the season to score 20 points or more.
The Eagles had hoped to capture the at-large bid for the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship, but they did not receive it. Emory finished their season at 15-9 overall and 8-6 in the UAA conference. Their loss against Rochester put them at a three-way tie for second place in the conference.
Although the outcome of the men’s game did not impact the Eagles’ playoff standings, the energy was high from the beginning as the seniors sought to capture a win in the final regular season game of their careers. Emory started to break away midway through the second half behind baskets from senior guards Matthew Schner and Romin Williams, pushing the score to 26-12 with 11:14 to go. The Eagles were shut out for the next three and a half minutes until junior forward Mason Johnson’s layup at the 7:41 mark broke the scoring drought, making the tally 28-16. For the remainder of the half, Rochester outscored the Eagles 18-8, with 15 points from Schner barely keeping Emory on top with a 36-34 lead.
Schner and freshman forward Cale Martens opened the scoring in the second half, giving Emory a 40-34 advantage. The Eagles continued to pile on baskets, as senior guard Nick Stuck, Williams and Schner hit shots one after another to increase the Eagles’ lead to 49-38 with 15:05 left in the game. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Rochester closed the gap to 51-45, but Stuck completed the and-one play after a foul by Rochester junior guard Matt Niemczura to make the score 54-45. However, Rochester kept themselves alive by connecting from behind the arc three times in a span of two-and-half-minutes and cut the deficit to 57-56 with 9:01 to play.
Niemczura put the Yellowjackets on top with a layup at the 8:05 mark, but two free throws for Martens and baskets from Schner and Stuck kept the Eagles on ahead 66-60. Rochester hit 3-pointers on subsequent possessions to close the gap to 74-70 with 57 seconds remaining, but Stuck connected twice from the charity stripe to push the lead to 76-70 at the 35 second mark. Rochester’s final points, two free throws from senior forward Brian Amabilino Perez and a layup from senior guard Trent Noordsij, were not enough to secure them the win, and the Eagles walked away with a 76-74 victory. Schner finished with 27 points, Stuck added 15 and Williams and Martens contributed 10 apiece.
The Eagles will face Averett University (Va.) in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship on March 4 at 7:10 p.m. at the Woodruff Physical Education Center. Averett finished the regular season with a 17-11 overall record and went 11-3 in the USA South Athletic conference.
Schner said that matching the tempo Averett sets and playing tight defensively will be key for the Eagles to move on to the second round of the tournament.
“[The focus is] having to adjust to guarding the ball a lot more,” Schner said. “They have very quick guards. They play very fast-paced. They put a lot of pressure on the ball. We play a pretty fast-paced game, but we can expect them to go right along with that and play a fast-paced game as well. I think the key for us is really dictating defensively what’s going on.”
The Eagles won their last three games by a total of seven points, and have given those opponents opportunities to win up until the final moments of the game. Schner said that continuing to do so moving forward will not allow them to succeed in the playoffs, especially against a talented team like Averett.
“Teams have gotten too many offensive rebounds on us,” Schner said. “I think offensive rebounding could be a strength for us, and we’ve allowed too many teams to get second chance points. Making sure that we hold teams to one shot, grabbing the rebound and getting out quickly in transition with it has been something we worked on for sure.”
Schner said he is excited to kick off his final tournament run with a home court advantage at the WoodPEC and, if the Eagles win, to play their second-round game there on Mar. 5.
“It’s great to be at home in a gym that you’ve put up so many shots in over your many years here at Emory,” Schner said. “It’s also just great for all of our students and for all of our Emory basketball fans to be able to be here to watch this game.”
Jenna Daly (she/her) (25C) is from Windsor Locks, Connecticut, majoring in philosophy, politics and law on a pre-law track. Outside of the Wheel, she is on Emory’s Cross Country and Track & Field teams. In her free time, Jenna enjoys hiking, playing Spikeball and reading science fiction novels.