strongEvan Sporer, Beacon Staff/strong
As Alex Yoh went up for the jumpball against Ramapo State’s LaQuan Peterkin, he slapped the ball past his slightly taller opponent to Emerson’s Dan Bisaccio. Emerson took control of the ball, but that control was short lived.
A sluggish start ridddled with turnovers and missed shots put the Emerson men’s basketball team in a big hole, and the visitors from New Jersey, ranked 12th in the Division 3 News preseason poll, cruised to a lopsided 78-31 win.
Yoh’s jumpball win was followed by more than 10 minutes of scoreless basketball for Emerson. Ramapo used its height and athleticism to disrupt the Lions’ offense, which opened the game 0-11 from the field. During that stretch, the Lions turned the ball over six times, with Ramapo hanging 15 points on the scoreboard before the Lions could even put the ball in the hoop.
“Obviously we weren’t ready, and we didn’t take care of the ball,” said Drew Venter, a senior captain.
Eli Kell-Abrams broke the scoring drought for the Lions. The freshman showed some bright stretches, according to head coach Jim O’Brien. Kell-Abrams turned in an Emerson high 12 points.
“He had some good flashes,” O’Brien said. “But if Eli is going to be our leading scorer we’re really going to struggle.”
In between baskets, which were scarce, Emerson struggled to take care of the ball. The Lions had 25 turnovers on the game, caused by everything from overthrown passes, to Ramapo’s pesky defense.
“When you turn the ball over as much as we did, and you miss as many shots as we did, there’s just not enough points left to be able to keep up,” O’Brien said.
Venter, who shared the ball handling duties with fellow guard Kell-Abrams, acknowledged his team’s carelessness with the ball.
“[Eli] is a freshman and I’m a senior. You kind of expect a freshman to turn the ball over, but there’s no excuse for me to do it,” Venter said.
But the ineptitude of Emerson’s offense was the team’s undoing. While the Lions played gritty defense at times, the Lions’ inability to create quality shot opportunities was apparent, as they missed contested attempts, or were blocked. The visiting Roadrunners blocked eight shots on the day.
“The [Ramapo] defense was denying the ball, and the offense was scattered. We couldn’t get good rotation on the ball, couldn’t reverse it. We’ve got to learn how to run our offense,” said Nathan Firn, a senior forward.
Whether it was opening game anxiety, or poor execution, Emerson found itself with a 23 point halftime deficit. In his first game on the bench for Emerson, O’Brien admitted to feeling some of those jitters.
“I was antsy all day,” O’Brien said. “But as soon as they throw the ball up, it’s back to normal.”
O’Brien also said that his team is getting used to a new system. While Ramapo shot a very high 56 percent from the field, it was the Lions’ first game playing in a zone defense. Emerson’s new coach said he thinks his team will improve with time.
“There’s so many things that we need to be working on, and there’s so many new things for our guys,” O’Brien said. “It was just really, really difficult for us to be ready to play a team like this in our first game.”
“We’ve just got to gel, we’re still developing here, obviously.”
emSporer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ ev_sporer/em