Last Second Bucket Sends Royals To 68-67 Loss

Josh Whelan shot 7-of-11 from the floor against SVU. (photo by Scott Eyre
Josh Whelan shot 7-of-11 from the floor against SVU. (photo by Scott Eyre

Another chance was all the visiting Knights needed, as Sam Armstrong cashed in on his second attempt at the game-winner, sending the EMU basketball men to a 68-67 defeat in Harrisonburg Tuesday night.

The Runnin Royals shot a season-best 49.1% from the floor in the game, including 27-for-44 from inside the arc, and led Southern Virginia by as many as 10 points during the second half. Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central) scored an efficient 17 points with four assists while sophomore Josh Whelan (Fort Defiance, Va./Fort Defiance) earned his first collegiate double double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

For all the things EMU's men did well, the sting would rest on Armstrong's game-winning jumper with 2.4 seconds left, coming after an offensive rebound off Armstrong's missed three pointer just seconds earlier.

The Royals were hurt by giving up 16 offensive rebounds to SVU, shooting just 1-for-13 from three, and making 10-of-20 free throws.

Neither team led by more than four points during the tight first half, but things got even more entertaining in the second. The Knights scored the first five points after halftime to open a 39-33 margin, before Jones scored five straight to slice it back to one.

Southern Virginia was clinging to a 42-38 lead at the 16:06 mark when the Runnin Royals clamped on the defense. EMU held the visitors without a field goal for more than seven minutes as the Knights got just a single free throw during the stretch. The men, meanwhile, were scoring on almost every possession.

Alijah Ellis (Stafford, Va./Indian River) dumped in six straight points during a 15-1 run that was finally capped by a Whelan bucket with 10:22 to play. Tie Evans (Henrico, Va./Steward School) picked out a steal and fed the big man on the break to put EMU up by 10 at 53-43.

The margin hung around six points, where it stood when Jones fed Whelan for a monster dunk with 3:43 to go, making it 62-56. But SVU got three pointers on their next two possessions, finally re-tying the score at 62-62.

After the teams traded buckets, the Royals turned the ball over and Southern Virginia took the lead at 66-64 with 1:25 left. Ellis nearly hit a huge three pointer a minute later, but grabbed his own miss to keep the possession alive. Kobi Alexander (Madison, Va./Madison County) ended up with the ball down low and hit the bucket with a foul, converting the three-point play to bump EMU back in front 67-66 with 26 seconds remaining.

That set up SVU's final possession and Armstrong's bucket. After a timeout, the Royals tried to get off a shot from the left wing, but the final buzzer sounded before what would have been a missed shot, leaving the Knights with their first win.

Armstrong finished as the game's leading scorer, putting in 20 points for Southern Virginia.

Ellis also finished in double figures for the Royals, scoring a career high 13 points. Alexander added eight points and four rebounds. Jamel Howard (Leesburg, Va./Tuscarora) was good for six points, five rebounds and three steals.

Eastern Mennonite (1-6) hits the road this Saturday, playing an ODAC game at Lynchburg at 2:00pm. The Royals play two at the Don Glick Classic hosted by Bridgewater College next weekend before closing the first semester at Wilson College on Dec. 18.