Earlier this season, the Emerson men's basketball team lost in an upset to the Norwich Cadets. On Feb. 7, they refused to let history repeat itself.
Led by senior co-captain Anthony Remias and sophomore Tom Messinger, each with 15 points, the Lions beat the Cadets in a 66-56 victory. Emerson needed this win in order to keep their second place seeding in the GNAC. Both St. Joseph's of Maine and Emmanuel are right on Emerson's heels, trailing by just one game in the standings. If Emerson had lost the game, at best they would have been tied for second, and would most likely have been dropped to third.
Due to the importance of this particular game, the Lions needed to properly implement their game-plan.
"We didn't really prepare any differently for this game, but we executed better," said Messinger, a marketing communication major. "Our game-plan was solid the first time we played them we just didn't follow through on the court."
Seconds into the game, Remias hit a three-pointer on an assist from junior Brian Rouse to put Emerson in the lead. They would never give up this lead as they continued to hit from behind the arc with Messinger and Remias hitting a combined seven three- pointers, and inside with center Brian Rouse adding 14 to secure the Lions domination of the paint.
Early in the game it seemed that the Lions had some trouble rebounding on the defensive end, as they let the Cadets come away with some easy buckets. However, after a few minutes Emerson's defense clamped down and was able to put a stop to the Cadet offense. This offense centered around lobbing the ball down low to the post. This tactic was effective at first, though it was quickly shut down by Emerson's aggressive defense which countered with strong ball pressure and both fronting the post and helping in the back.
"We made hard ball pressure a point of emphasis which made it harder for them to get it into their big guy. The only difference between this game and the first was in the execution. We executed better this game," Head Coach Hank Smith said.
Execution seemed to be a theme for Emerson as Remias agreed that the keys to the game were both execution and aggression.
"Our coaches have always taught aggressive defense and is something we practice every time. For Norwich we knew they had some big guys that they like to do a lob pass to. That is something they did in the second half of the first game a lot and it did hurt us," Remias said.
"This time I feel our team was not just more aware of it but we played more assertive and aggressive. Most importantly we executed our defensive style better this time around," he said.
As the second half began the Cadets came out strong. However, this time Emerson came out even stronger. They continued to dominate in the second half and never let up their intensity.
"It is easy for a team to play more conservative and back off knowing that you have a lead. I am not saying we consciously did play conservative or were told to but instead we came out flat last time and didn't play with the urgency we needed to," Remias said. "This time around we played more assertive and aggressive and we simply continued to play our game."
Messinger attributed the teams' victory to their aggressive play and discipline.
"We really controlled the game on both ends of the court by attacking them both offensively and defensively. We also managed to keep our composure and discipline throughout the game as well, and when we do those things we're tough to beat."