When the Emory University Eagles’ forward Jake Davis tipped in a teammate’s failed 3-pointer at the buzzer on Jan. 17 to give his team the difference in an 83-81 Emory victory, it marked the start of a fateful series of away games. The Eagles’ bench players rushed onto the court to give Davis high fives, those in the stands at Emory’s Woodruff PE Complex went wild and the ’Jackets limped off the court and onward to what became a horrendous five-game losing streak on the road.
Yet when the Eagles met the Yellowjackets a second time, this past Saturday, Feb. 25, they faced a very different team. UR carried a 16-8 record into the rematch with Emory — the sign of a strong squad, but not a mark that does the team full justice. The men, who didn’t lose a game at home this season — boasting a seamless 12-0 record at the Palestra — are considered by many to be among the nation’s best when equipped with the familiar confines of their home court and a boisterous fan section.
Undoubtedly, the Eagles knew of their adversaries’ formidability in their hometown. But Emory, ranked third in the University Athletic Association with an 8-5 conference record and with high hopes for an NCAA postseason berth, had no answer for the Yellowjackets’ second-half offensive explosion, as junior guard John DiBartolomeo and the home team stretched a nine-point lead at halftime to a 19-point margin of victory in the 92-73 win.
The game had extra value for three seniors — guard Chris Dende, forward Nate Novosel and center Marcus Williams — who took to the Palestra for the final time in their school colors. Each senior ended up weighing in on the Eagles’ demise, as Dende (21 points with six 3-pointers) and Novosel (14 points) both reached double figures for the ’Jackets, while Williams recorded a career-high four blocked shots to shut down the Eagles’ scoring efforts.
The brightest star of the day, however, was no doubt DiBartolomeo, who was responsible for an lofty 40 points. The total was a career high, and DiBartolomeo didn’t stop there. He also pulled down nine rebounds, dished out six assists and stole possession from the Eagles four times to cause Emory trouble in what appeared to be every facet of the match-up.
After battling back and forth for the first ten minutes of the game, Emory guard Alex Greven fired a 3-pointer that gave his team a five-point lead 11 minutes in. Davis extended the lead to six on the next play, but the Eagles could not get any further away from the ’Jackets. Dende and DiBartolomeo hit back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite an 18-3 run in the half’s final minutes, putting the home team up 42-33 and bringing an abnormally quiet UR crowd to life. As with the game last month, Davis proved a presence for the Eagles, leading the visitors at halftime with 12 points.
The Yellowjackets only became hungrier for points in the second half, as after just one Emory basket the yellow and blue scored 11 unanswered points to leave Emory down by a daunting 18. The Eagles then redoubled their efforts. Emory forward Michael Friedberg scored eight points in a 12-1 run that cut the home team’s lead to eight with 7:41 remaining in the game. They would edge no closer, however, as the Yellowjackets reminded Emory and the basketball world why there has been no such thing as victory for visitors to the Palestra. Dende hit an impressive shot and added an extra point to get the lead back up to 11, and DiBartolomeo was awarded four free throws after the Eagles’ bench argued an Emory turnover with the officials and was penalized with two technical fouls. DiBartolomeo made all four, pushing the lead back up to 15.
With the win, the Yellowjackets tied the Eagles for third place in the University Athletic Assoiation. Both teams hold 8-6 records against conference rivals.
Bernstein is a member of
the class of 2014.