The Runnin Royals shot 52% from the floor in the second half, erasing a 10-point deficit, but they couldn't carry the momentum through overtime, where they lost 71-66 to Averett.
Saturday's game in Harrisonburg was the 2019-20 season opener for both teams.
The EMU basketball men stay at home for their next game, welcoming Mary Washington to Yoder Arena Tuesday at 7:00pm.
Both teams struggled to score early in Saturday's contest, with EMU holding a slight 10-7 lead seven minutes into play. Averett made a small run to get in front, and then scored the final four points of the half to lead 35-25 at intermission.
The Royals were actually out-shooting AU 36% to 34% at the break, but the Cougars earned the edge by getting second chance points and hitting four three pointers.
That 10-point margin would be the biggest for either team, as Eastern Mennonite scored the first five points of the second half. DJ Hill (Woodbridge, Va./Hylton) hit Tie Evans (Henrico, Va./Steward School) for a quick bucket on the break to get the men within 43-42, and Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central) popped in a jumper at the 11:48 mark to give EMU their first lead in more than 20 minutes at 50-49.
The teams traded leads the rest of the way, with neither team leading by more than three points in regulation. Jones found sophomore-transfer Josh Whelan (Fort Defiance, Va./Fort Defiance) for a short jumper with 1:12 on the clock, bumping the Runnin Royals back in front, 58-57.
After back-to-back empty possessions, Evans picked off an interior pass and was fouled with 12 seconds to go. He hit the first of two free throws to leave the lead at two points, and Averett's Montre' Cash hit a game-tying shot with two seconds left, forcing OT at 59-59.
Hill scored inside to give EMU the first bucket of overtime, but Cash quickly answered for the Cougars. The scoring slowed down for the next two minutes until an Averett three pointer jumped the visitors' lead to 67-63 with 1:07 on the clock.
Jones came up with a big answer, nailing his own triple to cut the margin back down to one, but Cash hit another big shot to put the edge back at 69-66. The Cougars made only two-of-five free throws over the final 41 seconds, but the Royals turned the ball over on their final three possessions to come up short.
Buoyed by the hot second half, Eastern Mennonite had a 44% to 34% shooting advantage, but Averett made up the difference with 22 offensive rebounds for an 18-7 edge in second change points. The Royals also committed 20 turnovers for a -8 margin.
Jones tallied a career best 23 points to lead all scorers, adding five assists. Hill broke his career rebounding high as the junior notched his first career double double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Evans scored eight while Whelan was good for nine rebounds, seven points and three of EMU's seven blocked shots.
Cash led Averett with 18 points and six assists. Corey Baldwin added 13 points and four steals.