Playoff push imminent for men's ball

by Claire Nobles / Beacon Staff • February 12, 2015

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Junior Sean Duffy (right) tries his hand at a jump ball.
Junior Sean Duffy (right) tries his hand at a jump ball.

After posting a 3-3 conference record through Jan. 24, the men’s basketball team lost four consecutive games to New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference opponents, putting their postseason hopes in jeopardy. But on Feb. 11, it snapped its losing streak with a 68-55 win over the Coast Guard Academy.

The Lions are currently in the fifth and final NEWMAC playoff seed, in front of Clark University, which has a 3-7 conference record and has a less impressive overall record than Emerson. The Lions beat the Cougars in their first matchup of the season, but lost 79-70 to them on Feb. 7.

“[We] already beat them, but you have to prepare,” said head coach Bill Curley. “That [win] was weeks ago.”

Four of Emerson’s seven losses have come at the hands of nationally ranked teams: twice each to conference opponents Babson College (10-1) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (8-3). Both of Babson’s wins were by a margin of over 22 points.

Their second loss to 13th-ranked WPI was an overtime heartbreaker on Feb. 4. After 10 lead changes, Emerson came up short in overtime, losing 81-73.

“They played, they executed, they gave themselves a chance to win,” said Curley. “They showed what they can do. It’s just a matter of being consistent everyday. We have all the parts.”

The Lions’ biggest area for improvement heading into the final stretch of the season is their offensive output, which Curley said he’s seen get better over the past few weeks. Out of eight teams in the NEWMAC, Emerson ranks seventh in average points per game at 62.7.

“We’re making more shots, and we have to continue to do that,” said Curley. “If we can put our shooting and our defense together in the same game and the same half, we’re going to look pretty tough to beat.”

Junior forward Austin Pinckney, who scored 20 points and had 16 rebounds in the win against Coast Guard, said his team will need to redouble its efforts to make the playoffs.

“Our losses were mostly [because of] little mental errors that we did to ourselves,” said the visual and media arts major. “No team really outplayed us, but we just didn’t come to play.”

Emerson has three games left on their regular season schedule against Springfield College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Wheaton College. The Lions lost 85-60 to Springfield on Jan. 29 and to MIT 64-55 on Jan. 24. They beat Wheaton 66-44.

“Hopefully, we can get these wins and make it into the NEWMAC playoffs,” said Pinckney.

Curley said despite the challenging end to the season, he’s looking forward to the last few games.

“The schedule favors us,” said Curley. “We only have one road game left. We only have two monsters, [MIT and Springfield], that we have to face.”

The first four playoff seeds are set. Emerson’s only competitor, Clark, has a tougher schedule to finish out the season. They have games against no. 8 ranked Babson College, Springfield, and WPI, against whom they lost each of their first matchups.

“I think we still do have a good shot to get into the playoffs,” said Curley. “We have the chance to control our destiny, but regardless of that, it’s just about taking care of business and playing one play at a time.“