Freshman Eli Kell-Abrams rushed down court, a Suffolk defender the only thing standing between him and the basket. The point guard went in for a layup, only to have the ball fall off to the side of the basket. Soon after, forward Patrick Lowndes had an open look of his own, only to miss the opportunity.
A slow start and failure to convert put the Emerson men’s basketball team down early against the visiting Rams. The Lions took to the court in the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym on edge, missing three of their first four shots from beyond the arc in the first half and prompting head coach Jim O’Brien to call for his team to settle down. An offensive breakthrough in the second half, however, allowed the Lions to take the lead and secure a 74-64 victory.
“We understand we need every win, so there was some desperation for sure,” said Lowndes, who had a team-high eight rebounds. “Every win in the conference will bring us one step closer to the tournament.”
According to O’Brien, the Rams came into the contest with a good idea of the Lions’ playing style. A game between the teams on Dec. 3 saw Emerson come out on top, 90-74. The win was Emerson’s first of the season.
“Early on, they were very prepared from how we played them last time,” O’Brien said. “We knew we needed to double on their bigger guys, and we couldn’t guard them one-on-one.”
Close coverage by Suffolk kept the Lions from taking the lead in the first 20 minutes, but strong efforts by Emerson kept the game within reach. At one point, senior forward Nate Firn battled past two Suffolk defenders to make a one-handed layup, narrowing the gap to 10 points.
Though the Lions were down 34-30 at the start of the second half, they found their touch and rode the hot shooting for the win, their third in four games. The loss was Suffolk’s fourth in a row.
Emerson hit its rhythm in the last twenty minutes, toning down its three-point shooting and nearly doubling its field goal percentage from the first half, causing the Rams to fall further behind.
“We were getting great looks,” said Kell-Abrams, who led the team with 13 points overall. “The shots fell, and we rode that.” Emerson shot 60 percent from the field in the second half.
According to senior forward Dan Bisaccio, the team came out of the locker room with a positive attitude.
“We were a little lackadaisical on the bench,” said Bisaccio, who tallied six points on the day. “Everyone was fired up, from the first guy to the last guy, and the players responded to that.”
As the minutes wound down, Suffolk players began to take their frustrations out on their opponents. The Rams’ Matt Powers shoved Emerson players and exchanged words, knocking the ball out of the Lions’ hands after the home team recovered the ball. The action gave Emerson the chance to go to the foul line, which they took advantage of, extending their lead to seven points.
The Lions played their best defense of the year, according to O’Brien, as they were able to limit Rams’ top scorers Matt Pepdjovonic and Chris Torres from reaching their season averages in points per game. But it was a strong effort by the offense, O’Brien said, which gave Emerson the win in the end.
“Once again, it continues to be offense, when we don’t turn it over and finish our shots,” O’Brien said. “We score an average of 50 points a game, and today we had 74. If we can continue scoring like that, we can win some games.”
The strong shooting carried over into Tuesday night’s match up against Mount Ida, as Emerson went 10-20 from beyond the arc and hung 71 on the scoreboard. The defensive effort was not enough, however, as the Mustangs put up 74 points of their own.
The Lions are now 4-18 on the season and 4-12 in the conference. They take to the court again Saturday afternoon at home against Anna Maria College.