Saturday's men's basketball game between Eastern Mennonite University and Guilford College was a full-out display of two young teams trying to find a consistent rhythm in the rugged Old Dominion Athletic Conference. In the end, the host Quakers emerged in a squeaker, 70-68, giving EMU their second straight conference loss since returning from the Christmas Break.
Each team controlled one half of play, with the Runnin Royals exploding out of the gates. Maleke Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) and RaShawn Latimer (Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run) nailed treys and Isaiah Harris-Winn (Frederick, Md./St. Mari Goretti) converted inside to put the men up 8-0 just 2:44 in.
The air raid continued as EMU shot 12-23 from outside in the first half, taking a 40-28 lead into halftime. Jerome Jones' (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) triple at the 4:23 mark provided the biggest lead of the game at 37-19 as the Royals scored all but four of their first-half point on long balls.
The second half was a different story as Guilford limited EMU's looks from three, and the men struggled to make their shots. EMU was only 2-9 from three point range over the final 20 minutes.
The Quakers opened with a quick 10-2 run, cutting to within 42-38 in a span of just 3:17. The men kept their composure, but GC eventually tied the score at 48-48. Maleke Jones hit a big three to keep them in front, but Guilford came right back and tied it again at 53-53.
Finally Alston Thompson got an offensive putback on a missed free throw to give the Quakers their first lead of the day at 56-55. Back-to-back steals followed by layups gave Guilford their biggest lead at 63-56 with 7:40 to play.
Maleke Jones cut the deficit to one point with a three ball with 2:17 remaining, before tying it at 68-68 with a single free throw at the 1:38 mark.
Trying to inbound, the Quakers then turned the ball over for the third straight time, giving Eastern Mennonite the chance at the lead. A whistle for a moving screen ended that chance, however, with 1:19 left.
After GC missed on a three point attempt, the men returned the favor with a missed jumper, handing it back to the Quakers with just seconds separating the game and shot clocks.
Sophomore guard Jarrod Rogers sliced to the hoop and converted with 5.7 seconds left, putting Guilford ahead 70-68. After a timeout, Maleke Jones took the inbounds and pushed it up the floor. His running jumper in the lane rimmed out at the buzzer, leaving the Royals with the tough loss.
EMU out-shot their hosts 43% to 35%, but were undone by a -7 turnover margin and giving up 27 offensive rebounds to the Quakers. The men finished with a 44% clip from outside, hitting 14-of-32 three pointers. GC was just 5-for-23 on threes.
Maleke Jones led all scorers with 19 points, including a 5-8 display from long range. Tariq Caldwell (Richmond, Va./Lee-Davis) hit a trio of threes and finished with 11 points. Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern) earned the start and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Christian Hansen (Manassas Park, Va./Osbourn Park) had eight points and six boards off the bench. Jerome Jones scored nine.
Will Freeman had 12 points and eight rebounds off the GC bench, while fellow sub Thompson added 11 and nine. Both had six offensive boards. Six Quakers scored between eight and 12 points in a balanced effort.
The Royals, now 6-6 overall and 1-3 in the ODAC, will try to rebound from the week's pair of two-point losses by hosting nationally regarded Virginia Wesleyan (8-5 / 3-1 ODAC) Wednesday night in Harrisonburg. Game time against the ODAC's preseason favorite is 7:00pm.