Junior Adam Gigax scored 19 of his game-high tying 21 points in the second half in leading the Emory men's basketball team to a victory over Texas Lutheran Friday evening in a first-round win in the NCAA D-III Tournament. The Eagles won for the fifth straight time and raised their overall record to 19-7 with an 82-69 decision over the Bulldogs who closed out their season at 19-10. Hosting the opening rounds is Hardin-Simmons in Abilene, Texas.
Gigax hit six field goals in 10 tries, including four treys in six attempts, in registering his 21st double-figure scoring performance of the season and 13th of 20 or more points. Senior Jim Gordon came through with his second double-double of the season, tallying 17 points and grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds. Freshman Nick Tupanjanin tallied a career-high 12 points, all in the first half, while sophomore Gebereal Baitey rounded out the squad's double-figure point producers with 11 points. Junior Whit Rapp doled out eight assists in the win.
Holding a one-point lead with 5:30 left in the game, a jumper by Baitey started an 8-0 run that gave Emory a 72-63 edge with just under four minutes left on the clock. Gigax scored the final six points of that decisive burst, the last three on a trey that was set up after junior Whit Rapp came up with a steal off a TLU inbounds. After a pair of charity tosses by TLU drew it to within seven, a pair of Gigax three pointers with a bucket by Gordon sandwiched between, accounted for an 8-2 run that upped Emory's cushion to 80-68 with 1:15 left.
Emory held a nine-point lead, 42-33, early in the second half, but Texas Lutheran countered with a 12-5 response, seven points coming Sterling Holmes, to slice its deficit to two points. Holmes finished the night with 21 points and 10 boards. After a Baitey bucket, the Bulldogs knotted the score at 49-49 with 14:03 remaining. The Eagles edged ahead by a single digit before scoring seven unanswered points, four coming by junior Christopher Avant and the other three on a three-pointer by Beau Bommarito, to claim a 58-50 edge with 10:41 remaining. Emory maintained a five-point lead, 64-59, after a Bommarito drive to the rim, but four straight free throws by TLU drew it to within one with 5:44 on the clock.
Emory shot 41.2 percent (28 of 68) from the floor while holding the Bulldogs to 34.3 percent (23 of 67), the 17th time this season it held the opposition to less than 40 percent. The Eagles were successful on 46.2 percent (12 of 26) from beyond the arc, compared to TLU's 13.8 percent (4 of 29). Emory's dozen treys raised its record to 10-2 on the year when it makes 10 or more from distance.
Emory used the long ball during the opening 20 minutes of play in taking a 39-33 edge at halftime. The Eagles knocked down 43.8 percent (7 of 16) from three-point range compared to the Bulldogs' effort of 13.3 percent (2 of 15). Gordon topped the Eagles' scoring attack with 13 points, hitting five-of-12 field goals, including three triples, while Tupanjanin accounted for 12 points on the strength of four-of-four shooting from beyond the arc. Gordon scored nine of Emory's first 11 points in helping the Eagles to a six-point edge four minutes into the game. Holding a 13-10 lead, a Tupanjanin triple ignited a 9-2 spurt that stretched Emory's advantage to 22-12 just under the midway point of the half. An 11-4 Emory burst, with Tupanjanin scoring nine points in that stretch, pushed it to a 16-point bulge, 35-19, with 4:25 left. However, the Bulldogs closed the half with a flurry, outscoring Emory by a 14-4 count over the final 4:02.
Emory will battle Hardin-Simmons on Saturday in second-round play with an 8:00 pm (EST) tip. Hardin-Simmons advanced after edging LaGrange, 109-103.