Amid injuries, new players and the process of getting into shape, the Lions struggled to a 2-4 record in their first six games following the winter break, giving them an overall record of 5-9 and 4-3 in conference games.,While the majority of students were packing their belongings preparing for the return to college, the Emerson men's basketball team was already hard at work-and breaking a record in the process.
Amid injuries, new players and the process of getting into shape, the Lions struggled to a 2-4 record in their first six games following the winter break, giving them an overall record of 5-9 and 4-3 in conference games.
The squad also welcomed three transfer students to the roster over the break, Sammy Newman-Beck from Westfield State College in Westfield, Mass. and Morales Hendricks from The New England Institute of Art in Brookline.
Sophomore Joe Boylan who previously transferred to Colorado State last spring semester, came back to Emerson and to the team.
The Lions hosted the Norwich Cadets on Jan. 10, the first game after the break. Senior Steve Georgoulis posted a double-double with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 1 block and although junior Will Dawkins added 13 points, the Cadets went on a late run to win 80-60.
Two days later, looking to rebound from the defeat, the Lions traveled to Providence for a battle with Johnson Wales University. Georgoulis flourished once again, scoring 23 points with 9 rebounds. But his efforts alone were not enough for a victory.
Head Coach Hank Smith was not satisfied with his team's performance during the break. When asked last week how he'd like to see his team improve, Smith was quick to answer.
"Defense. Rebounding too, but, without question, on the ball defense," Smith said.
Emerson traveled to Rivier on Jan. 14 to stop their two game losing streak. This would become a record-breaking contest.
Tied at 77, the two teams went into overtime, however, one session was not enough. It took four extra periods before Emerson was finally able to prevail, winning the contest 119-116.
It was the longest game in Emerson men's basketball history.
"It's not something you'll forget because it just went on and on," Smith said. "It feels really good being a part of [Emerson] history when you win . It wouldn't have been so great if we lost but it was a nice win, so you feel good about the team and the kids feel good. It's all positive."
Coaching that marathon game was no walk in the park, Smith said, as it was difficult to juggle the lineup for such a long stretch of time.
"You have to make a lot of adjustments," Smith said. "Steve [Georgoulis] got injured. We had players foul out. So, it's challenging."
Will Sagar, Ben Chase and Morales Hendricks all fouled out of the four overtime duel and Georgoulis suffered a sprained ankle, which made matters worse.
"A big piece of our team went down [when Georgoulis was injured,]" Smith said.
The Georgoulis-less Lions came back home for a showdown on Jan. 16 against the Golden Bears of Western New England College.
The efforts of Alfredo Tovar with 17 points and Sagar with 13, would not be enough for victory as Dawkins went 0 for 8 from the field and the Golden Bears trounced the team 80-50.
Coach Smith, however, has been encouraged by the play of Tovar and Sagar since the break.
"I think they came in more ready to play," Smith said. "They have made a lot of adjustments that have really helped themselves and the team."
Last Thursday, Emerson lost the fourth of five games since the break. Despite a much improved performance from Dawkins, who netted 30 points, MIT defeated the Lions 81-68. Georgoulis was unable to play for the second straight game.
Smith said the injuries not only affect the team during the game, but in everyday practice as well.
"When you get so many injuries, you can't practice the way you'd like to and that sets you back," he said.
Smith also said that Georgoulis's injury was particularly devastating to the Lions' squad.
"We don't really have many big guys," Smith said. "[Georgoulis] is our leading scorer and our offense kind of runs through him in some ways. When we [pass] in to Steve, teams have to play us differently."