After Tuesday's solid exhibition effort at JMU, the Runnin Royals officially opened the season Thursday night at Averett. Using the confidence they built against the D-I Dukes, EMU rolled over Averett by a final of 90-74.
Eastern Mennonite's basketball men trailed for a mere two minutes early in the game and led by as many as 30, shooting a scorching 56.6% for the big win.
It also marked a successful debut for Coach Melvin Felix, who earned a victory in his first official game as a collegiate head coach.
Now 1-0, EMU gets a much tougher challenge next Tuesday, playing at Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va. The experienced Eagles were picked second in the Capital Athletic Conference after finishing 19-8 last year.
The Royals had a slow start against Averett, committing five turnovers over the opening 5:23. After cutting down on the miscues, the men took off, scoring 10 straight to jump ahead 15-7. The Cougars hit a triple, but the run continued to 17-3, building a 21-10 cushion.
The momentum continued the remainder of the half. EMU had the lead as high as 37-20 before settling into a 43-29 margin at halftime.
Eastern Mennonite continued their torrid shooting pace, ballooning the lead to 67-37.
Averett made a few jabs, eventually getting within 14 in the closing minute, but the Cougars simply could not stop the men from scoring.
Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern) led four Royals in double figures, as the big man dumped in a career high 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting. He was 7-10 from the free throw line and hauled in a game high eight rebounds. Sophomore Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central) also had a breakout effort, blowing past his career high with 18 points.
Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) broke his career high with his six assists and tied his high with two blocks. Tariq Caldwell (Richmond, Va./Lee-Davis) added six rebounds, while guard Xavier McCants (Olney, Md./Sherwood) chipped in five boards and four assists.
Eastern Mennonite hit 30-of-53 shots, getting an assist on 22 of the makes. They also went 25-36 from the free throw line. Averett was limited to 28-for-72 shooting for 38.9%.
Ian Best led the Cougars off the bench with 16 points, five assists and three blocked shots.