Defense Leads To Offense In 89-72 Win Over Frostburg State

(l-r) Isaiah Harris-Winn, Sammy Thomas, RaShawn Latimer and Xavier McCants helped EMU's defense to one of their best performances of the season. (photo by Scott Eyre)
(l-r) Isaiah Harris-Winn, Sammy Thomas, RaShawn Latimer and Xavier McCants helped EMU's defense to one of their best performances of the season. (photo by Scott Eyre)

When the Royals make stops on the defensive end, it's nearly impossible to stop them on the offensive side.

That simple formula held true Wednesday night, as the EMU basketball men rolled over visiting Frostburg State, 89-72. The Runnin Royals held FSU to just 36% shooting in the second half, which they won 49-34 to inflate a two-point halftime margin.

Eastern Mennonite (5-5) heads into the Christmas break on a three-game winning streak. During that stretch, the Royals have stymied their opponents to a combined shooting percentage of just over 39%, transitioning to an offense that has averaged 103.3 points per game on 54% shooting.

The men will get a week off before returning to campus and a few days of practices. Their next game will be 14 days following the win over FSU, and it will be a big one, as rival Bridgewater College comes to Yoder Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 3. The Eagles take a 6-4 record and a four-game winning streak into their break over Christmas, returning to action next Saturday against Ferrum.

In Wednesday's win over Frostburg State, defense got the men rolling quickly with Maleke Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) using a steal to set up a fastbreak triple from RaShawn Latimer (Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run) for their first field goal. Over the opening minutes, the men routinely turned a stop on the defensive end into a transition bucket. Center Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern) got up the floor and converted a three-point play for a 16-5 lead just 4:03 in. After forcing another turnover, Jerome Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) added his own and-one to bump the lead to 19-5.

The lead was still at 14 points after Thomas got loose inside to make it 26-12 and the midway mark of the frame. Frostburg State finally found some consistency offense and started chipping into the lead. The Bobcats got within one point before EMU went into the break with a 40-38 edge.

FSU scored first in the second half to tie the score, and took their first lead since the opening minute at 46-44. Latimer had a quick answer, however, drilling a three pointer to put the Royals back up. Frostburg State converted a layup, but EMU replied again, this time with Jerome Jones hitting from outside.

The visitors snuck in the lead one more time with 13:55 remaining. Once again, the Royals had a quick answer, this time with Xavier McCants (Olney, Md./Sherwood) slicing to the hoop for a three-point play. Eastern Mennonite proceeded to hold the Bobcats scoreless for the next three minutes, and Isaiah Harris-Winn (Frederick, Md./St. Maria Goretti) buried a three to cap a 9-0 spurt for a 61-53 lead.

Even with 10 minutes still to play the outcome was almost certain, as the Royals had shown their dominance and kept up their defense to the finish line. They seemed to score twice in response to every FSU bucket down the stretch, with the lead growing to as large as 89-68 when Harris-Winn hit a jumper with 1:05 remaining. It capped a 37-15 run over a span of nearly 13 minutes.

The visitors scored twice in the final minute to get the final margin to 89-72.

Eastern Mennonite shot 51.5% from the floor and had a 26-12 advantage in fastbreak points. The Bobcats made only 29-of-72 shots from the floor for 40.3%, including 4-26 from three-point range, and tried to stay in the game with 10 offensive rebounds.

Latimer led the Royals with 19 points, his fifth straight game scoring 16 or more. Harris-Winn notched his third straight double double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He has averaged 15.0 points and 12.0 rebounds during that stretch, all EMU wins.

Thomas tied his season high with 13 points to go with six rebounds. Jerome Jones added 10 points and four assists while Maleke Jones did the dirty work to come up with a career-best nine rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Tyler Michael led Frostburg State with 21 points and four assists. Edwin Cole added 14 points, 11 rebounds (including five offensive), three steals and three blocks.