In one aspect, Kirby Dean thought his Eastern Mennonite men’s basketball squad almost resembled the Golden State Warriors too much Wednesday night.
“The biggest thing that happened out there tonight was — and you can see it in the box score — nobody cared who scored. As long as EMU scored, we were happy,” Dean said. “There were a couple times we almost over-passed. We looked like Golden State throwing it around. It’s almost too many passes, but the last thing I’ll do is complain about sharing the ball too much because I think that’s a good thing.”
Dean’s list of complaints wasn’t very lengthy at all after the Royals’ 87-60 victory at Yoder Arena over their neighboring Old Dominion Athletic Conference rival, Bridgewater.
EMU (7-5, 1-2 ODAC) eclipsed 80 points for the eighth time this season, tormenting the Eagles (5-7, 2-1) 19-2 off turnovers, 31-15 in transition and 42-28 in the paint.
“I really felt as good about this game as any game in a long time, and it’s not because I don’t think Bridgewater’s good because I do think they’re good. I just felt that good about what we had been doing.” said Dean, who improved to 16-14 against BC in his 14 seasons as EMU’s coach. “We took everything we talked about and worked on and we took it right between the lines and made it happen.”
EMU was led by Isaiah Harris-Winn’s 13 points, RaShawn Latimer’s 12 points and Xavier McCants’ 10 points while Jerome Jones added eight points and a team-leading 10 rebounds and four assists.
For the Eagles, who lost their third straight contest, Wednesday was a continuation of the struggles that haunted them in the tail end of their non-conference schedule.
“We came out and didn’t really do anything that we talked about trying to execute in terms of the game plan,” second-year Bridgewater coach Shawn Postiglione said. “I wish I had an explanation. I’m just really, really, extremely embarrassed and disappointed in what we put out tonight because we’re capable of a lot better than that.”
Bridgewater has still dominated the all-time series with EMU 78-35, but Eastern Mennonite has now won 13 of the last 17 matchups. Wednesday’s 27-point margin was the biggest EMU win over BC since a 31-point decision in January 2012.
Both coaches used the phrase “perfect storm” to describe how the circumstances led to the outcome in their first meeting in 2016-17.
For Dean, his Royals connected on shots right from the start of the game — racing out to a 10-0 lead in the game’s first 2:04 — to put Bridgewater in an uphill battle in which EMU could dictate the style of play.
Postiglione pointed to his team’s poor transition defense, inability to finish makeable shots, and his key players going “M.I.A.,” which strains his young roster.
“When you don’t have it clicking on either end, this is the result that you get against a good team,” Postiglione said.
Dean said his Royals, who hit 42.9 percent of their 3s Wednesday, are riding momentum they built with a Dec. 21 win at Ferrum and gained confidence from their 82-65 exhibition loss on Dec. 28 to James Madison, in which the score was tied at halftime.
“We just got it going tonight,” Dean said, adding that EMU’s defensive intensity was as good as it’s been all season.
EMU freshman forward Josh Good, who was the Shenandoah District Player of the Year last season for Luray High School, added seven points and five rebounds. Sophomore guard Khalil Davis, a Spotswood product, finished with six points and three rebounds and dished out two assists in the first 1:06 to spring the Royals to their early lead.
BC sophomore wing Kevin Saylor, playing against his former Spotswood teammate Davis, led the Eagles with 16 points, four 3-pointers and six rebounds while adding four assists.
Eastern Mennonite continues its ODAC slate by traveling to Lynchburg for a 2 p.m. tilt Saturday. Bridgewater will return home to face Randolph-Macon on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
“If getting beat like this doesn’t make you fight harder and get more determined, then we have the wrong guys,” Postiglione said. “We have a big home game on Saturday, so practice is going to be pretty intense and pretty competitive tomorrow; they’re not gonna have a choice in that. Hopefully we have enough guys that can find it within themselves to get angry at this result and then do something about it. We’ve got to see what we’re made of on Saturday.”
Reprinted from Jan. 5, 2017, Daily News-Record.