EMU's basketball men gave up a 15-point first-half lead in a costly 62-56 loss at Randolph College Wednesday night.
The men had a solid start to the game, but by the end the cramped and raucous quarters of Randolph's RAD Center turned the tables.
The Runnin Royals third straight loss drops them to 4-7 in the ODAC, tied with Bridgewater for eighth in the league standings. The rivals sit just a half game ahead of Randolph at 4-8, and a full game ahead of Ferrum's 3-8.
With just five dates left in the ODAC schedule, the race is tightening up for the postseason. Unlike previous years where every team made the ODAC Tournament, the addition of Ferrum triggered a move to a 10-team field, which puts added pressure on these final games.
Shenandoah and Hampden-Sydney are tied for 12th in the ODAC at 1-10.
Eastern Mennonite has a tough task on Saturday as they look to regroup, hosting Emory & Henry at 6:00pm. The 2018 ODAC champions, EHC is 7-4 in league play this year, but also one of the hottest teams with a five-game winning streak.
Led by guards Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central) and Xavier McCants (Olney, Md./Sherwood), the Royals came out on fire at Randolph. After scoring the first five points of the night, EMU blew open what was a 20-17 contest with eight minutes left in the half.
The men held the WildCats without a score for nearly five minutes, while rattling off 12 unanswered points. Jones and Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern) each converted three-point plays to cap the run, pushing the margin to 32-17. Randolph scored the next 10, however, gaining a little momentum despite EMU's 34-27 lead at halftime.
Jones got to the rim for two with 16:51 to play, regaining the double digit margin at 38-27, before the WildCats got going.
Randolph quickly trimmed the cushion down to a two-possession game and then used a 6-0 jab to get their first lead of the night at 50-49 with 8:36 remaining.
EMU scratched in the next four points to get back in front 53-50 with 7:11 to go, but they wouldn't score again until 26 seconds were showing on the clock.
The WildCats struggled to score as well, but did enough to get the lead back at the 3:18 mark. It was still a single possession game until the final minute, when three free throws pushed Randolph's lead to 59-53.
Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) converted a three-point play with 26 ticks left to get EMU back within three, but a free throw from Randolph and turnover from the Royals cut the men off. Two more charity tosses in the final seconds created the final 62-56 margin.
The men scored just 22 points in the second half, where they shot a frigid 6-of-25 from the floor. EMU shot 35% for the game, getting only six assists on their 19 field goals. Randolph wasn't much better, connecting on a shade under 38%.
Turnovers made the biggest difference, where EMU was -4. That resulted in a 20-12 advantage for Randolph in points off turnovers.
Jones finished with 16 points and six rebounds while Clower came in with 10 points and four steals.
Tariq Caldwell (Richmond, Va./Lee-Davis) had six points and 13 rebounds, the second-highest rebound total of his career. Thomas added eight boards and McCants finished with seven points.
Randolph's Sammy Hooper led all players with 22 points, including 17 in the second half. Brian Smith added 15 points, four assists and three steals.