Emerson College: 69
Rivier College: 56
It took nearly nine minutes for the Emerson Lions to get to the free throw line on Tuesday night against the Rivier Raiders, but throughout the rest of the game, free throws played a major role in Emerson’s 69-56 win.
At the beginning of the game, Emerson head coach Jim O’Brien said he was skeptical of his team’s aggression.
“Sometimes we get a little bit passive on the offensive end,” said O’Brien. “They only committed four fouls in the first half.”
Although the Lion’s rank fourth in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) in attempted free throws, O’Brien said his team needs to do a better job of getting more free throw opportunities.
The only player to get to the line in the first half for Emerson was freshman Tyson Hallowell, who took six free throws in the game’s first 20 minutes.
Hallowell said he wanted to send a message to the other team by driving to the basket.
“I wanted to be aggressive in getting at [Rivier],” said Hallowell. “I wanted to kind of set the tempo that we weren’t going to back down to any of their players.”
At the half, the Lions only held a five point lead. Freshman guard Michael Thorpe said that the increase in aggression, which ultimately led to more trips to the line for Emerson, was due to the coach’s order.
“Coach wanted us to be real aggressive going to the rim,” said Thorpe. “We were looking at their stats and saw that their biggest man only averaged a foul and a half a game. So [coach] wanted us to keep attacking and keep attacking.”
The team listened to O’Brien, forcing 14 Rivier fouls, leading to 20 free throw attempts in the second half.
Emerson went to the charity stripe and shot 69.2 percent in the second fram, which is the exact same percentage as their season average. The Lions are third in the GNAC standings, but are only rank sixth in free throw percentage.
O’Brien said he wants this number to improve, but understands that there are limitations that are uncontrollable.
“[We don’t work on free throw shooting] as much as we should. We don’t have time,” said O’Brien. “We have two baskets to accommodate 18 players. ... What we are asking the kids to do is get in the gym on their own.”
Hallowell made it his goal to get to the hoop and draw fouls, as he made nine out of the team’s total of 18 free throws. He said he knew that free throws would be crucial in a close game.
“If you don’t make them pay, it’s like all your work goes down the drain — you don’t get to extend the lead,” said Hallowell. “I think that if you hit foul shots down the stretch, it can be deflating for the other team.”
The victory improved Emerson’s record to 14-9 overall and 12-4 in the GNAC. The Lions play their next game on February 14 at Suffolk at 7 p.m.