Emerson basketball fans have come to know the name Chris Rodgers.
The WPI senior cemented that on Wednesday night, draining a buzzer-beating jumper to hand Emerson’s men’s basketball team its second heartbreaking loss to the Engineers in as many years in the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym.
With WPI up 72-71, Lions senior guard Michael Sheng found an open lane and drove to the basket, laying in the go-ahead bucket with nine seconds left on the clock and bringing the large mid-January crowd to its feet.
And for the second straight season, Rodgers left the gym in stunned silence. His jumper at the buzzer handed the Engineers a 74-73 victory less than a year after he nailed an even more unlikely winner from the corner to propel WPI to a 62-61 victory last Feb. 1.
Both teams entered play Wednesday with 2-2 conference records. The teams traded points for the majority of the game, with WPI holding a two point halftime lead.
Emerson struggled to contain WPI’s offensive rebounding early, leading to 10 second chance points for the Engineers in the first half. WPI outrebounded the Lions 7-2 on the offensive glass in the opening half.
The Lions shot well from three-point range all night, converting on over 45 percent of their threes. Jack O’Connor and Geoff Gray both hit three apiece, and O’Connor had the hot hand in the first half, draining consecutive corner threes to keep the score tight in the first 12 minutes.
It looked like the game may get away from the Lions midway through the second half, with Jake Wisniewski’s putback giving the Engineers a 12-point lead with just under ten minutes to play. But the team clawed back, thanks in part to senior Corey Fitz hitting a three and then a jumper to put Emerson up one with 2:14 to play.
The teams traded free throw chances before the final sequence led to the Engineers’ win.
Geoff Gray’s 18 points led Emerson in the box score. Wisniewski and teammate Aaron Todd each had 12 points to lead the Engineers.
Emerson and WPI will meet again in Worcester on Feb. 10.
The loss drops Emerson (8-8, 2-3) to fifth in the NEWMAC, which puts them in playoff position with nine games to play. The Lions will host Wheaton for a 3 p.m. tip on Saturday.