Defense wins games, and Wednesday night it gave the Runnin Royals their biggest win of the year, an 87-75 upset of No. 5 Virginia Wesleyan in Yoder Arena. Eastern Mennonite held the Marlins to just 33% shooting, their second-lowest mark of the season.
EMU made a firm statement as they look to lock up a top-four seed in the upcoming ODAC Tournament. The men improve to 15-7 on the year and 8-5 in the ODAC. The second-place Marlins fall to 18-4 and 10-3. This is their first loss to a team not ranked in the national poll.
Keyed by a three pointer and two three-point plays, the Royals jumped to a quick 9-4 lead just 2:09 into the game. Virginia Wesleyan answered with their best stretch of the night, scoring nine unanswered points for a 13-9 lead. EMU scored the next 10 points to go back in front and the battle was on.
The Royals led by as many as eight in the first half, but VWC never wilted. The men were up 38-35 at halftime.
A listless start to the second opened the door for the Marlins to make a quick run, going in front 39-38. The visitors got their lead to as many as three points at 43-40 and 45-42 before Eastern Mennonite worked back ahead to a small edge.
At the midway point of final period, the Royals had a modest 57-55 advantage. Led by James Williams (Capitol Heights, Md./Archbishop Carroll), the men then took over. They methodically inflated up the cushion and finally pushed it to 71-60 when Williams converted a three-point play with 4:35 left.
VWC hit a three pointer, but could get no momentum from it as Ryan Yates (Alexandria, Va./T.C. Williams) answered with a long ball of his own.
Holding a 77-66 lead with 2:25 to play, what had been the James Williams show became the James William victory lap. EMU's senior point guard iced the decision by going 8-for-8 from the free throw line down the stretch, pushing the lead to as many as 15 before a late VWC three produced the final 12-point margin.
Williams had the best night of his career with 27 points, five assists and five rebounds. He finished 13-13 from the stripe to tie an EMU record for free throw percentage in a game. Only George Johnson made more tosses in a perfect effort, going 16-16 in 2010. Defensively, Williams also locked down VWC's Khory Moore, smothering him to a season-low three points. Moore entered the night second in the ODAC in scoring at 18.5 point per game.
Yates strolled in with 15 points and five assists, while Woody Furbush (Bridgeton, N.J./Salem) scored a career high 12 points with a pair of blocked shots. David Falk (Madison, Va./Madison County) cleaned up everything inside, racking up 18 rebounds to go with nine points and two blocks. Marcel Crump (Richmond, Va./Highland Springs) had nine points and four assists.
Greg Montgomery picked up the slack for Virginia Wesleyan, scoring 26 points with eight rebounds. Brandon Mitchell added 17 counters and nine boards off the bench.
The Runnin Royals stay at home this Saturday, hosting Emory & Henry at 7:00pm. The Wasps are coming off a 72-68 road win at Bridgewater.
Coach Kirby Dean said his team has really stepped up defensively over the last few games:
Coach Kirby Dean talks about his team's upset of No. 5 Virginia Wesleyan.