Senior Davis Rao led four double-figure with a season-high 25 in helping the Emory men's basketball team to a University Athletic Association title clinching win at Rochester on Saturday. The Eagles earned the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament and raised their overall record to 18-7, 11-3 in the league, following an 84-75 decision over the Yellowjackets who slipped to 17-8 overall while closing out conference action at 10-4. It marks the fourth straight year that Emory has advanced to the NCAA D-III Tournament.
Rao picked an opportune time to come through with his second-highest career scoring contest, sinking seven-of-10 field goal attempts, including a pair of triples, and converting nine free throws in 10 tries. It was the seventh time in the past eight games that he reached double digits in scoring and 16th on the year. Rao also tied classmate Will Trawick for team honors with seven rebounds. Sophomore Adam Gigax rang up 20 points, 13 in the second half, ending the afternoon five-of-eight from the floor, including two-of-three from beyond the arc, and eight-of-eight from the charity stripe. Junior Jonathan Terry came off the bench to register 14 points, nine of which came on three three-point field goals, while Trawick rounded out the double-figure scorers with 13 points, hitting five-of-11 field goals, including three treys in five attempts.
An 8-0 Emory spurt, started by a Gigax triple and capped off by back-to-back buckets by Terry, gave the Eagles a 47-38 edge over UR with 15:46 left in the game. After a Yellowjacket three pointer, Rao hit one from beyond the arc, that kept Emory ahead by nine points with 13:49 on the clock. Rochester then battled back to knot the score on the strength of a 9-0 blitz, the final six points coming from Dylan Peretz. Emory punched back with six unanswered points, with Rao accounting for a three-pointer to finish off the run, to claim a 56-50 margin with 9:22 remaining. A three-point play by sophomore Donald Avant provided the Eagles with a seven-point cushion, but Rochester stayed in the hunt by scoring five straight points to draw to within 62-60 with 6:53 remaining. After the teams split the next eight points, Emory went on a 7-2 streak, started by a triple by Terry and followed by baskets from Trawick and Gigax, to move to a 73-66 lead with 1:51 remaining. The Eagles were able to seal the outcome by converting nine-of-10 free throws over the final 1:12 of the contest, with Gigax hitting all six of his opportunities and Rao was successful on is two attempts. Sophomore Whit Rapp doled out eight assists in the win, his 10th game this year with seven or more.
Emory finished the game hitting 50 percent (26 of 52) from the field compared to Rochester's showing of 37.3 percent (22 of 59). It was the ninth time this year the Eagles held an opponent to less than 40 percent from the floor, upping their record to 8-1 in such games. Three-point shooting was a key factor in the final decision, with Emory successful on 44 percent (11 of 25), while the hosts struggled at 23.8 percent (5 of 21). Rochester did post a slight 35-33 edge in rebounding 35-33.
Emory used the trey ball during the opening 20 minutes of play in claiming a 37-31 edge at the break. The Eagles knocked down seven-of-15 three-point opportunities while the Yellowjackets sank two of eight tries. Emory was successful on five of its first 10 attempts from the beyond the arc, with a triple by Terry the finishing touch of a 14-5 spurt that put the Eagles ahead by a 22-15 count with 10:15 left in the half. A bucket by Rao would give Emory the first of three nine-point leads in the stanza, with a jumper by Gigax pushing the visitors to a 26-17 advantage. Seven straight points by Rochester sliced Emory's lead to two points, but the Eagles countered with a basket by Rao, followed by a three pointer by Gigax, to push ahead, 31-24. A three pointer by Rao, who totaled 12 first-half points, with 59 ticks on the clock extended Emory to a 37-28 bulge, but UR countered with a three pointer by Jared Seltzer to close out the scoring for the half. Emory was successful on 46.2 percent (12 of 26) of its field goal attempts compared to Rochester's 30.8 percent (8 of 26). The Yellowjackets stayed in the hunt with solid free throw shooting that saw it knock down 13 of 15 from the stripe.
It is Emory's second straight UAA title and third in the past four years (the 2012-13 squad tied for the league crown). Overall, it is the fifth time in the 29 years of UAA play that the Eagles have been league champs. Emory will learn who its postseason opponent will be and where it will be playing on Monday, Feb. 29, at 12:30 pm. The NCAA D-III selection show can be seen on ncaa.com.