Four other Emerson sports teams had tried and came up on the short end in their first New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference games, but the women’s basketball team penned a different ending Wednesday night at home.
Junior forward Kristin Brice imposed her will on visiting Massachusetts Institute of Technology, racking up 29 points, 19 of which came in the first half. The Lions’ long-limbed inside presence made 13 of 17 shots from the field, also tacking on 10 rebounds and four blocked shots in 74-69 win at the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym.
“I think this just set a tone for the rest of the NEWMAC that we’re not a team to be overlooked,” said the 6-foot Brice. “We were picked to finish second-to-last in the [11-team] conference and MIT was two above us, so we’re all just really excited about this, and it shows that we can go out and play with these teams.”
Emerson is now 3-0 after having won the four-team Emerson Tip-Off Classic last weekend. The Lions beat Wentworth and Elmira College of upstate New York.
“Most importantly, it was a big win because it was our first win in the NEWMAC,” said Emerson head coach Bill Gould, whose squad beat MIT in 2011, but then fell to the Engineers in Cambridge last November. “It got us off on the right foot. Every win is going to be hard to get in the NEWMAC, every single win. I don’t care how it is — pretty, ugly, it doesn’t matter. If we get a win, then I’m happy.”
Next up, Emerson will host CUNY Staten Island at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23.
After that, 19 of the Lions’ remaining 21 games will be against NEWMAC teams.
Brice said Emerson’s Great Northeast Athletic Conference schedule of yesteryear usually didn’t begin until after winter break.
“We’ve all been ready from the get-go,” Brice said. “The two wins this weekend were awesome to start our season, but we knew that today was a conference game and this was a good win to go against the rest of the NEWMAC teams.”
Although the Lions led most of the way, the victory was in jeopardy late.
Emerson held a 71-69 edge with 10 seconds left, but got clutch free throws from sophomore Sienna O’Han, and a split at the foul line by junior Catherine Cloutier.
O’Han, who finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists, made it a four-point game in the very last moments.
“I knew that I had to make them,” said O’Han, a starting guard, who noted that MIT had gone 5-for-10 from beyond the three-point line up to that point. “It would have been a two-point game and they could have come down and made a three. Coach even said, ‘After this we’re going to be four points ahead’ [during an Emerson timeout] and I was sitting there like ‘I have to make these.’”
Up until that point, it was Brice who did the heavy lifting, but the junior team-centerpiece made sure to mention the contributions of her teammates.
“Everyone contributes in different ways,” said Brice, who called her hot shooting “lucky.”
Freshman Elizabeth Horan scored all six of her points over the final 1:30 of the first half, helping the Lions cling to a 42-40 lead at the halftime intermission.
Brice scored the first four points of the second half as Emerson went on an 8-0 run to open up its biggest lead, 50-40, off a layup by Janissa Delzo (10 points).
Delzo gave the Lions the lead for good, 59-58, on a jumper with 6:19 to play. Brice chipped in four more points from there, while Kelsey Johnson scored all six of her points down the stretch.