The Lions’ Wednesday night game against Wheaton was headlined by the game between graduate center Jarred Houston and Wheaton Lyons’ senior forward Aaron Williams, who leads the NEWMAC in scoring with 20 points per game. With NEWMAC’s top two centers going head to head, the game did not disappoint.
Houston and fellow graduate Nate Martin led the opening offense and helped the team jump to a 12-8 lead within the first five minutes. The team held their ground and led by as much as 12 points, with buckets from the likes of Martin, freshman guard Brendan McNamara, senior guard Ben Allen and senior forward Max Davis, with less than seven minutes left in the first half. Wheaton fought briefly to gain a one-run lead, but the Lions put on a 9-1 run, with “B-Mac” breaking ankles for a two-point jumper with two minutes remaining. Thanks to a pair of free throws from junior guard Trevor Arico, Emerson entered the locker room with a 41-37 halftime lead.
The Lions and Lyons opened the second half with intensity, with Houston sinking a pair of free throws to extend Emerson’s lead to 45–42. Wheaton tied the game with a corner three at 5:30 p.m., converting easy looks to the rim as the Lions scrambled for an adequate response.
The Lions’ response came in the form of a triple from senior guard and captain James Beckwith that returned the lead to Emerson, making it 50–49 with less than 16 minutes remaining. Emerson and Wheaton continued to trade buckets with neither team leading by more than four points.
The Lions’ physical play fought hard to overcome Wheaton’s open shots, producing a fantastic finish at the Brown-Plofker Gym.
Davis downed a top-of-the-key three that gave Emerson a 77–74 lead with 3:39 minutes remaining, and made a steal at the other end that led to two more free throws. Wheaton continued to fight back, answering every Lions bucket. The late-game heroics continued from Davis, who hit a triple with 2:13 minutes remaining to give the Lions an 82–77 lead.
Wheaton took advantage of two errors committed by the Lions, slipped to the brink and cut the lead to one with a minute left. Martin’s fadeaway kept Emerson alive with 39 seconds left, giving them an 84-81 lead. A miscommunication on the Wheaton team led to a theft by Arico with 24 seconds left. On Martin free throws, Wheaton cleared a deep three with less than 20 seconds left. Martin and McNamara iced the game with free throws for a three-point lead, and Wheaton’s missed three-point rise secured the Lions’ 89-86 win.
Martin led the way with 24 points, two assists and one block, while Houston had 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and one steal. Davis, starting his fifth straight game, recorded 16 points and two steals.
Head coach Bill Curley said he was impressed with many of the players, including McNamara, who “set the tone for how we were going to play,” and graduate guard Sean Coman, who led the offense and launched an attack late in the game took.
“As I tell our boys, we didn’t win tonight – we won in our preparation [over] the past two days,” Curley added. “The guys who didn’t get a chance to get into the game prepared us well for what we were going to see.”
The head coach also talked about the impact of Davis, who started the last six games and impressed with his scoring and defending.
“Max is clearly one of the better players in the league,” said Curley. “[He’s] such an attacking talent in the way he sees the ball, and his greatest talent is perhaps his selflessness and the way he tries to find guys. We really missed it [his competitiveness] in the first semester and his fiery disposition.”
The Lions dominated the MIT Engineers on Saturday, winning 89-58. After a first half in which MIT went on a 16-6 run to tie the game at 34, the Lions went into halftime with a slim lead of 39-34. They put on an attacking clinic in the second half, led by Beckwith’s four threes in the period, which enabled a convincing win.
Beckwith finished the game with 22 points on 8-15 shooting from the field and 5-9 from distance. In addition, Martin had 15 points with three triples and Houston finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks.
After another victory over Springfield, the 11-7 Lions return to Brown-Plofker on February 1 against WPI.