UR Men’s basketball ended their season with a close loss to the Emory University Eagles on Saturday.
Prior to the game, the team celebrated their lone senior, Patrick Benka. Benka was joined by his family as his career statistics and accolades were read out. The pep band played the national anthem and the ‘Jackets took to their home court for the final time this season.
Junior Ryan Algier won the ball for the ‘Jackets off the opening tip-off, but the team found themselves stopped cold by Emory’s defense.
This became something of a pattern for the game — neither team scored for over two minutes to start the game. Emory scored first on a three-point shot, and kept them coming, sinking eight in the first half. UR’s sound zone defense helped keep them in the game, though the Eagles managed to score some points by pushing in transition before the ‘Jackets could settle into their formation.
Mid-way through the first half, the game’s flow shifted. First, a beautiful pass by junior Kailan Lee set up an exciting dunk by sophomore Brian Perez. Then sophomore Ross Gang made a skilled individual play, stealing the ball and driving to the basket for two points.
The game sat tied at 29 with just over five minutes left in the first half. After five more minutes of fast-paced play, Gang ended the first half with a spectacular block, sending the teams to the locker rooms with UR down 43–39.
At halftime, a performance by the Royals Dance group was followed (and somewhat overshadowed) by the pep band. Starting with a rendition of the “Incredibles” theme, the band showed their breadth by playing “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder, “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones, and “Starships” by Nicki Minaj. Throughout the game, the band’s energy was something of a replacement for the not-quite-full student section.
The second half started like the first, with neither team showing great ability to score.
Benka made an impressive block, starting a play that finished with two points from Algier. Despite this early success, the ‘Jackets struggled to score for the entire half. Emory’s aggressive style of defense led to many fouls, but it also resulted in a six minute run in the second half of the period where UR scored no points except from free-throws.
A particularly egregious foul on the part of the Eagles was followed by a three-point shot from Benka. Gang made yet another steal, following it with an assist to Lee, who scored another three points to close Emory’s lead to two points.
The Eagles coach called a timeout, and his team settled down, closing the game with four more points for a final score of 80–76.
While the ‘Jackets’ season ended on a loss, they didn’t go down without a fight. The narrow loss was a considerable improvement over their earlier season loss to Emory in Atlanta, where they were outscored 75–57. That growth helped them finish the season with a .500 record.
They still have a tournament to play this year, but the team will remain almost entirely intact next year, where they will be able to pursue greater success.