When the Emerson men’s basketball team took the court at the Bobbi Brown and Steven-Plofker Gym Tuesday night, it was still looking for its first win.
Its opponent was arguably its toughest competition to date: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Engineers, the ninth-ranked program nationally in Division 3 basketball.
“We went in with a game plan,” said senior forward Dan Bisaccio, a broadcast journalism major. “We tried to minimize baskets underneath, but they were relentless on the scoreboard.”
The visiting team’s size made the difference — MIT boasts a roster with nine players standing 6-foot-5 or taller, while Emerson has only one player who even hits the 6-foot-5 mark. As the Engineers towered over the Lions on the court, they did the same on the scoreboard, running past Emerson 89-57. The Lions dropped to 0-4 on the season.
“We couldn’t guard them,” first-year head coach Jim O’Brien said. “Their point guard is bigger than our tallest player. There weren’t really any adjustments we could have made.”
With three minutes left in the first half, freshman point guard Eli Kell-Abrams gathered his teammates around him under the basket on the offensive end of the court as Bilali Mack was preparing to shoot two free throws with the Lions trailing by 13.
“I said that there was no 12-point play,” Kell-Abrams said. “I told them we had to take it one stop at a time.”
Though the Engineers turned the ball over two times more than the Lions did, MIT posted seven blocks, while Emerson had none. According to senior captain and forward Nathan Firn, a visual and media arts major, the other team displayed a more disciplined offense. Firn fouled out in the later part of the second half.
Strong shooting by the Engineers’ tandem of Billy Bender and Noel Hollingsworth led MIT in the second half. Bender, who stand at 6-foot-9, imposed his size down low early on. When Emerson began to double-team him under the basket, the big man move outside, and shot 6-7 from beyond the arc.
Hollingsworth was also efficient from three-point land, hitting on all three of his attempts. Both players tallied in double digits, scoring 24 points and 17 points respectively, and took advantage of some open shot opportunities as Emerson tried to limit the Engineers in the post.
Though it led by a significant margin throughout the game, MIT stayed aggressive, guarding its opponents closely even when the ball was not in play. According to Kell-Abrams, however, it was Emerson’s self-inflicted mistakes that cost the Lions the game.
Bisaccio said the Lions won’t have much time to focus on the loss, since they have three games to play within the next week.
“We have a few games coming up, so it shouldn’t take long to move on,” he said. “We need to be resilient.”
The Lions will get back on the court tonight to take on out-of-conference foe Babson College, before playing Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) rival Suffolk University this Saturday. Both teams could again provide problems for the Lions because of their height: Out of the 32 players listed on the two teams’ combined rosters, only two are shorter than 6-feet tall.
“We just have to keep pushing forward,” Bisaccio said, acknowledging the upcoming stretch of the season will be challenging for the Lions. “We need to not be discouraged.”