Whether the gray uniforms did the trick or it was simply young players maturing on the court, something was different. And it worked.
EMU's basketball men earned a hard-fought 73-71 win over Randolph-Macon Saturday afternoon in Yoder Arena, picking up their third ODAC win over their last four tries to improve to 9-11 overall and 4-8 in the conference.
After losing their sixth game in a row two weeks ago, the Runnin Royals broke out their seldom-used gray uniforms for a Jan. 27 home game with Washington and Lee. The men sank 12-of-14 free throws down the stretch of that 85-76 win, to snap the losing skid which had been characterized by missed free throws and close losses. In Saturday's tight win over the Yellow Jackets, the Royals made six straight free throws in the final minutes. They have now two straight home games in the gray uniforms. The traditional home "whites" will very likely stay on the hangers for the next home game against Randolph College next Saturday.
When EMU played at Randolph-Macon on Jan. 20, the men fell into an early hole and could never get out of it in an 84-76 loss. This time around the men came out firing, with Jerome Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) hitting back-to-back threes for an 8-3 lead. Both teams struggled to shoot over the first 20 minutes, and the Yellow Jackets held a 30-25 edge at halftime.
R-MC used a 10-0 early in the second to push out to the biggest lead of the game at 49-37. But the young Royals didn't back down. Isaiah Harris-Winn (Frederick, Md./St. Maria Goretti) and RaShawn Latimer (Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run) combined to hit a trio of threes over a 15-4 run, getting EMU within 53-52 with 7:00 to go.
Jerome Jones eventually tied it at 57-57 with a pair of free throws. The game was still tied at 65-65 with less than a minute to play when Maleke Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) took over. Off an inbounds under his own hoop, the point guard went hard to the hole to earn free throws for the lead. Then he picked off a lazy pass and drove in for a layup giving EMU a quick 69-65 cushion.
Lamont Moore answered with a bucket for Randolph-Macon, but with the shot clock off the visitors were forced to foul. Maleke Jones made two tosses with 25.0 left, and Jerome Jones added two more with 12.2 showing to make it 73-68.
Jamie Wilson hit a pull-up three to get R-MC within 73-71. The Royals left the door open with two missed free throws, but they smothered the Yellow Jackets in the final seconds, keeping them from even attempting a shot before the final horn.
Eastern Mennonite had a slight shooting edge, and made the biggest difference from outside and at the stripe. The Royals were 10-20 from three while R-MC shot 6-24. At the free throw line, EMU was 17-25 compared to 9-16 for the visitors.
Harris-Winn finished with a game high 18 points, helped by 3-of-4 shooting from three. He also had a team best eight rebounds. Jerome Jones dumped in 15, while Latimer canned all three of his triples en route to 11 points. Christian Hansen (Manassas Park, Va./Osbourn Park) added nine while Maleke Jones finished with eight.
Jon Nowell topped R-MC with 16 points and Daniel Noe hit a double double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Moore, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, seemed physically hindered from a collision in the first half and finished just eight points and three boards, each less than half of his season averages.
The Runnin Royals will try to carry their momentum into a road game at rival Bridgewater College Wednesday night at Nininger Hall. The Eagles beat EMU 84-82 in overtime in Harrisonburg on Jan. 6.
Coach Kirby Dean thinks his men can get some momentum from back-to-back wins: