With a loud, supportive crowd behind them, the Lions defeated UMass Boston, 85-62, to even their record at 2-2 and notch the first of hopefully many victories in the new Piano Row Gymnasium.,In its first game at its new home, the Emerson men's basketball team got outstanding support from its new home-court advantage.
With a loud, supportive crowd behind them, the Lions defeated UMass Boston, 85-62, to even their record at 2-2 and notch the first of hopefully many victories in the new Piano Row Gymnasium. The gymnasium, located on campus and first used earlier this year by the volleyball team, is a significant upgrade over the team's previous home at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill.
The game also marked the introduction of two dynamic freshmen to the home crowd: center Bryan Rouse and point guard Jeremy Shannon. Rouse led the team in scoring with 23 points and also contributed four rebounds. Shannon chipped in with six points and dazzled the crowd with his nine assists. Another promising freshman, Mike Shea, was missing from the lineup with an injury.
Coach Hank Smith said the outstanding play of his freshman class came as no surprise to him. "Both Jeremy and Bryan are big talents," he said. "They played exactly the way they're capable of playing."
Junior guard Will Dawkins added to the attack with another solid performance, scoring 17 points, many of which helped put the game away in the second half. Although he was held scoreless for much of the first half, Dawkins made his impact felt in other facets of the game, with his four assists helping to get the rest of the team involved from the outset.
"I just tried to play within myself, and I knew in the second half I'd be ready," said Dawkins. "It's a team game, rather than everyone trying to dominate."
Although UMass had a significant size advantage over Emerson, the quicker Lions managed to overcome their lack of height through tenacious defensive energy, racking up 14 steals in the process.
Coach Smith credited his team's speed as the key to making up for the disadvantage in height. "We are a quicker basketball team," he said, "and we attacked them on the boards. Because of the pressure we put on them, height wasn't a factor."
Although the season is still young, Coach Smith likes the way his team is shaping up this year. "I think we have some very good, talented players," he said. "I think that if we continue to develop, we'll be right there at the end of the year."
Rouse agrees the team is headed in the right direction. "I think every game, we're getting better as a team," he said.
"Sometimes we play well, sometimes we don't. But every game, we're getting better and better."
As great as the victory was for the team, the night was highlighted by the fact that it was the first men's basketball game in the new gymnasium. When asked about the impact of the new gym on the team, Shannon said the rush of playing in the new gymnasium for the first time was quite an experience for the players. "It was really fun. We felt all the support," he said.
"Everybody was screaming. I'm glad it happened this year, my first year here. It should be a better experience every year."
Dawkins agreed, citing the fan support as a major contribution to the team's performance in the home opener. "This is the best feeling in the world after Pine Manor," he said. "Now, for [students] to come down from their dorms and support us, as loud as they were ... it's the best college experience you can have."