In its first three games, the Emerson men's basketball team has been winning and losing by the skin of its teeth; and if it weren't for the heroics of junior point guard Jeremy Shannon on two separate occasions, the Lions could easily be winless.
Instead, Shannon drained last-second three-pointers against Mount Ida College, a Great Northeast Athletic Conference rival, and Wheaton College. Because of Emerson's offensive attack, the squad's record stands at 2-1 as they head into a mostly out-of-conference portion of their schedule.
The Lions started their season on Nov. 20 with a close and climatic win over Wheaton in Norton, Mass. Two halves and an overtime session couldn't separate the two evenly-matched teams. The second overtime was close, and until the waning moments, it looked as though the two teams might be headed into a third overtime. But with a second left in the game, Shannon drained a trey, putting Emerson at the 100-point mark and giving the squad the win.
Despite the early success, sophomore guard Tom Messinger noted that the Lions would need to improve their defense to fend off future teams.
"We're not going to let up 100 points in a game and expect to win," he said.
Emerson tightened up on defense in its next game against Mount Ida on Nov. 22 in Newton, Mass. After a low-scoring game that saw Emerson down three points with just a second to go, Shannon continued his clutch shooting by sinking another trey to send the game into overtime. From there, the Lions went on to edge their foes by a final score of 66-63.
Emerson didn't do as well on Nov. 25 at Babson College in Babson Park, Mass. A tightly contested game saw the Lions fall to their opponents, 94-89. Shannon's magic wasn't enough for Emerson to squeak out the win this time around.
Despite the recent loss, however, Head Coach Hank Smith is optimistic about his team's play and future. He noted the standout play of 6'5" freshman center Nathan Finn, who has been averaging 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds-per-game, and of Shannon, whose 28.7 points-per-game leads the team. He also pointed out that Emerson's offense, led by Shannon, Messinger, junior center Bryan Rouse and freshman guard Alex Dempsey, has been particularly effective.
"Our offense has been our biggest strength so far," said Smith. "We have some very talented offensive players, including Tom [Messinger], who is one of the best shooters in the country."
In order to keep winning close games, Smith said, Emerson will need to improve its defense and rebounding. The Lions scored 255 points in the first three games, but allowed 254. Shannon has been the team's best rebounder, snagging 22 boards thus far, but in order to improve their overall rebounding, the squad will need more help down low. Rouse, who has averaged 22.7 points-per-game, will look to up his four rebounds-per-game average.
Emerson's 2-1 record has Smith feeling good about his team's chances as they prepare for their final three games before an almost month-long December break.
Although the team has a winning record, Messinger said the Lions will need to improve in various facets of the game if they hope to compete against their GNAC opponents when conference play begins.
"We have to rebound better in the future," Messinger said. "Ideally, we won't have any close games and we'll win all games comfortably. But we'll need to improve our rebounding and work harder on defense."