The Emory men’s basketball team is already proving their worth after a convincing victory against the Guilford College (N.C.) Quakers by a score of 89-67 on Nov. 10 in the season opener.
Their success was no surprise, as the Eagles have high expectations heading into this season. Led by Head Coach Jason Zimmerman and 10 veteran players, the Eagles are in good shape to obtain an 11th consecutive winning record. The Eagles also recently ranked No. 6in a 2019 preseason poll.
The Eagles backed up this high rank in their stellar performance against the Quakers. Four of their five starters scored in double figures with junior guard Romin Williams and junior forward Matt Davet leading in scoring with 18 points each. Wiliams shot an efficient four-of-five from three-point range, and Davet showed off his ability to draw fouls, making seven of eight free throws. Junior forward Lawrence Rowley was only one point shy of matching his teammates, racking up 17 points and going a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Junior guard Matthew Schner contributed with 12 points and also registered eight rebounds and four assists in the process.
Williams attributes the team’s success to tight bonds of team members both on and off the court.
“I think it’s just a brotherhood that we formed,” Williams said. “When you’re really close with guys and have a good relationship with them, you have fun playing with them and it’s a different level of basketball that comes with that … I think the sky is the limit for myself and the rest of the team.”
After surrendering a few points at the start of the game, the Eagles quickly regained the lead with a three from Williams, going up 6-3 with 16 minutes and 46 seconds left in the first half. From there, they went on a 28-12 run and gained their largest lead of the half, 34-15, with seven minutes and 44 seconds left to go. The Eagles continued to dominate, holding the Quakers to under 40 percent shooting from the field and closed out the half with a 45-35 lead. Davet solidified the Eagles’ dominance in the first half, scoring 16 of his 18 points.
After halftime, the Eagles traded baskets with the Quakers for the first five minutes. Leading with a score of 53-43 with 15 minutes and six seconds left in the game, the Eagles went on a 12-2 run, extending their lead to 65-45 with 12 minutes and 28 seconds left on the clock. From there, the game was as good as done as the Eagles held their lead and finished with a decisive 89-67 victory over the Quakers.
Despite a strong showing from Guilford’s bench, the Eagles’ shooting overwhelmed the Quakers. As a team, the Eagles shot a whopping 53.6 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three. To top it off, they only missed two free throws, shooting an astonishing 89.5 percent from the line. The Eagles turned the ball over six more times than the Quakers, but still beat the team in points scored off of turnovers by six points.
Zimmerman described the team’s defense as both a key factor in their victory and a goal for improvement.
“We defended better than we have [before],” Zimmerman said. “There were stretches where we need to get better obviously, but we did a decent job, defensively, in contesting shots. I think we really were connected as a team for the first game of the year.”
Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Berry College (Ga.) Vikings, Williams looked to carry the same energy the team brought against the Quakers on Nov. 10.
“If we clean those turnovers up and we hit the offensive glass a little bit harder than we did on Saturday I think that we’ll be victorious,” Williams said before the game. “But I think that if we just play the way we did and we come out with that same energy I think that we should have a pretty good showing and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Eagles won the match 99-85.
The first half was a struggle for the Eagles. After falling behind early, the Eagles were able to tie it up 12-12 with 16:14 left to go in the first half. From there, the teams played evenly for most of the half. After a quick steal and jump shot from junior guard Nick Stuck, the Eagles tied the game 44-44 with 2:25 left to go in the half. The game headed into halftime with the Eagles holding a slim two-point lead over the Vikings at 48-46.
The Eagles were neck and neck with the Vikings for the first nine minutes of the second half before establishing a lead they would never relinquish. The Eagles built an 11-point lead after a Davet three that put them up 75-64 with 11:40 left to go in the game. But the Vikings didn’t give up, going on a quick 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 75-72 with 10:14 left on the clock. The Eagles responded by going on a run of their own, outscoring the Vikings 12-2 and establishing a 87-74 lead with 7:24 left in the game. From there, the Eagles never let the game get close again and came out with a hard-fought 99-85 victory.
The biggest factor in the Eagles’ win was their three point shooting. The Vikings matched the Eagles on almost every level, but made only 36.4 percent of their three point shots, compared to the Eagles’ 56.5 percent. Several Eagles were hot from three, with Williams shooting five of 12, Davet shooting three of four and Schner shooting a perfect 4-for-4.
Williams led the team in scoring with an impressive 27 points, and grabbed three steals in the process. Schner also had a great game with 21 points, as well as getting seven rebounds and six assists.
The Eagles return to action on Nov. 20 when they host Sewanee: The University of the South (Tenn.) at 7:00 p.m.