The Emerson men's basketball team was running on all offensive cylinders during their victory over Daniel Webster College in the first round of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. Defensively, though, the team might benefit from a jump-start coming out of the polls.
The Lions dominated the Eagles on Tuesday to the tune of a 93-70 win, sending Emerson (23-3, 16-3 in the GNAC) to the conference semifinals against St. Joseph's College, which will be played tonight at 7 p.m. in the Piano Row Gymnasium. However, despite Emerson's status as the conference's top seed, they struggled for the first 15 minutes of the game against Daniel Webster, whose team finished its season at 7-19.
With about six minutes left in the first half, Emerson held a slim 36-34 lead over the visitors. Senior guard Anthony Remias said the Lions' chief problem is their tendency to settle into games instead of coming out strong from the outset.
"Our major problem is that we see how a game's going," Remias said. "But once we get into it, we take over."
Early in the contest, Emerson had trouble covering the Eagles' three-point shooters. Daniel Webster connected on 5 treys, with sharp-shooting junior guard Brian Inge hitting three of those buckets. Inge finished with 14 points in the half, allowing his team to keep things competitive early.
"We always come to play, but the fire just wasn't there for us from the get-go," Remias said. "We need to work on starting strong from the tip-off."
Emerson senior guard Joe Boylan said part of the problem for the Lions was a number of new schemes employed by the Eagles during the game, which Daniel Webster did not use during the teams' two meetings during the regular season.
"The ball screens and handoffs they used were new, and we struggled," said Boylan, a senior writing, literature and publishing major. "We were ready and focused, but we just didn't bring the effort defensively."
Emerson stepped its game up following the lackadaisical start, especially on the defensive end. The Lions forced 22 turnovers in the game while shooting over 55 percent. The lead eventually swelled to as much as 33 points before the Lions called off the guns near the end of the contest.
After the game, Head Coach Hank Smith said that he would be looking for more effort from his team when facing off against St. Joseph's.
"We need to come ready to play for 40 minutes," Smith said. "If we play defense and rebound, I'm confident we can win no matter who we play."
The scoring for the Lions was very balanced during the game. Senior guard Will Dawkins led the way with 24 points, while sophomore center Bryan Rouse added 16. Senior forward Ben Chase contributed 15 points and sophomore guard Jeremy Shannon and freshman guard Tom Messinger scored 12 apiece.
The Lions will be playing St. Joseph's for the second time this season when they meet in the semifinals. Emerson prevailed by a score of 80-70 back on Feb. 2.
Heading into the next round, Shannon said he expects his team to come out of the gates stronger when it faces off against St. Joseph's.
"It's the playoffs," the film major said. "We just need to come out with more fire."