Sophomore guard Ben Pearce looks for junior forward Logan Shanahan to set a screen during a game against NYU on Feb. 4. Emory lost 81-78. (Justin Whitening/Contributing Photographer)

Entering the weekend with games against Brandeis University (Mass.) on Feb. 2 and New York University (NYU) on Feb. 4 , Emory University’s men’s basketball team looked to recover from a loss on the road at NYU on Jan. 28.

Pearce scores 23 in loss against Brandeis

The team got off to a hot start in the first half of the contest with sophomore guard Ben Pearce scoring five of the team’s first nine points. Ultimately, the first 10 minutes of the game were low-scoring with strong defensive efforts from both teams. However, after trailing early in the first half, Brandeis went on a 14-0 run to take a 29-17 lead with five minutes remaining in the first half. Emory responded with a run of their own, entering halftime trailing by six.

In the second half, Brandeis quickly extended their lead to 17 with key shots on three consecutive possessions. Emory was able to cut the Judges’ lead to eight with strong defense and good ball movement.

A putback by senior guard Max Fried cut the lead to six with seven minutes remaining.  Sophomore forward Jair Knight then converted an and-one free throw to cut the lead to three. With points from Knight, the Eagles eventually cut Brandeis’ lead to one with three minutes remaining in the game.

Brandeis had a chance to ice the game with a two-point lead, but they missed both free throws, giving Emory a chance to snag the win. The Eagles grabbed the offensive rebound and called a timeout. After falling behind by as many as 17 to start the second half, Emory had the ball when three seconds left with a chance to tie with a two or win the game with a three. The Eagles inbounded the ball to Knight, who missed a crucial three as it rolled around the rim before toppling out. Despite the Eagles’ effort in the second half, Brandeis defeated Emory 71-69.

Pearce noted that Emory could have improved their ball handling more and prevented less turnovers.

“Coach always says we have to keep fighting,” Pearce said. “We can’t throw in the towel at any point … You can’t win games down the stretch when you don’t take care of the ball; you don’t make a play when a play needs to be made.”

Fried praised Brandeis’ team and coaching staff after splitting two games with them this season.

“Credit to their head coach: they are a well-coached team, ” Fried said.  “It’s not necessarily one guy with them but a ton of guys who can hurt you. They’re a well-rounded team, and we let one get away.”

Eagles lose 3 straight games with loss to NYU

The Eagles returned to the George W. Woodruff Physical Education Center on Sunday to face NYU, who defeated them 86-77 on Jan. 28.

Both teams opened the first quarter trading baskets and were tied 10-10 early. NYU went on a 9-0 run to take a 19-10 lead with turnovers hurting the Eagles almost immediately. However, the Eagles responded with a 14-3 run to take a 24-22 lead.

The two teams went back-and-forth, and a putback at the buzzer for NYU gave them a 49-47 lead going into the half. Knight led the Eagles in scoring with 17 points in the first half.

Emory got off to a strong start, taking a 59-50 lead but was then interrupted by a questionable loose ball foul called against freshman forward Ethan Fauss. Jason Zimmerman, Emory men’s basketball head coach, contested the call. Fauss was ultimately ejected after receiving his second technical foul.

“Coach is very passionate, and he really fights for us,” Knight said. “With [Fauss] getting ejected, it obviously hurt the team, but we didn’t let that affect us. After he got ejected, we went up a level, and we used it as momentum.”

Emory led by four with one minute remaining in the game. Junior forward Logan Shanahan, who finished the game with his sixth double-double of the season, grabbed a key offensive rebound and was fouled on the way down. Shanahan converted a free throw to extend the Eagle’s lead to five points. Emory had a 78-73 lead late in the contest, positioning themselves to win the game. Knight received a shooting foul after fouling NYU freshman guard Zay Freeney on a three-point shot. Freeney converted all three free throws to cut the Emory lead to just two with 25.8 seconds remaining.

Pearce stepped out of bounds while attempting to take the ball up court on the following possession, giving NYU a chance to cap off a stunner. After grabbing an offensive rebound on a missed three-point attempt, Freeney ended up being the hero for the Violets, converting a three-point shot to give NYU a 79-78 lead with just three seconds left.

The Eagles had one last chance to win the game but were unable to get a good shot off due to strong defense from the Violets. Emory committed a foul with 0.1 seconds remaining. The Violets converted two more free throws to clinch an 81-78 comeback win and deliver another heartbreaking loss for the Eagles, extending their losing streak to three games.

With both games against Brandeis and NYU being decided in the final minutes, Knight said that the squad will prioritize “closing out games” ahead of their future University Athletic Association (UAA) matchups.

“we’re losing a lot of games, but it’s not like we’re getting blown out,” Knight said. “And so, we’re prioritizing our last five minutes or the last six minutes of the game, where it’s really tight.”

The Eagles will look to bounce back at home against UAA rival Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.) on Feb. 9.

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Samir Ajy (he/him) (24C) is from Atlanta, Georgia and is majoring in political science on a pre-law track. In his free time, Samir enjoys watching sports, playing ultimate frisbee and watching comedy-based movies.