Senior Christopher Avant led five double-figure scorers with a season-high 22 points in helping the Emory men's basketball team to a thrilling 83-82 home victory over LeTourneau University Saturday evening in the second round of the NCAA D-III Tournament. The No. 6-ranked Eagles won for the seventh straight time and raised their overall record to 23-4 following the win while LeTourneau closed out its season at 24-5.
Emory now advances to next weekend's Round of 16 of the NCAA D-III Championships for the fourth time in five years where it will square off against the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with the location of the contest to be announced at a later date.
Avant ended the evening nine-of-17 from the floor, including a pair of triples, and converted a pair of charity tosses in registering his 17th double-figure scoring performance of the season. Junior Gebereal Baitey tallied 15 points, sinking seven field goals in 11 opportunities, while senior Adam Gigax contributed 14 points. Freshman Romin Williams and junior Beau Bommarito chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively. Senior guard Whit Rapp dished out 13 assists, his fourth double-figure outing of the campaign.
After a three-pointer by Avant gave the Eagles a 49-37 lead early in the second half, the Yellowjackets whittled down the gap to six points following a pair of free throws by Justin Moore. Emory held a 57-51 lead before a triple by Gigax upped its advantage to nine points with 11:58 on the clock. After a three-pointer by LeTourneau. The teams traded three baskets each before a trey by LETU's Nate West allowed the visitors to creep to within three with 9:01 remaining. Back-to-back baskets by Bommarito boosted the Eagles to a 70-63 edge, but a triple by Alec Colhoff, who finished with a game-high 26 points, sliced the lead to 70-66. A jumper by Baitey, followed by a layup by Avant, allowed the Eagles to claim a 76-68 lead, but Colhoff nailed another from distance to keep the Yellowjackets in the hunt. A key three-pointer by Williams put Emory ahead by a 79-71 count, but a LETU 8-2 burst, with West scoring six of his 23 points in that stretch, drew the Yellowjackets to within two points with 2:12 on the clock. A layup by Avant on a great dish from Whit Rapp pushed Emory to an 83-79 lead with 34 ticks left, but LeTourneau responded with a step-back three-pointer from West to cut the lead to one. On Emory's ensuing possession, Rapp was fouled 13 seconds remaining, sending him to the line. On his first attempt from the stripe, a lane violation was called on Emory, giving the ball to the Yellowjackets with a chance to win the game. West hoisted a three-pointer that missed its mark, with Rapp coming away with his ninth rebound of the contest, tying Avant for team honors.
Emory closed out the game 47.9 percent (35 of 73) from the floor compared to LETU's 43.1 percent. The Yellowjackets drained 12-of-32 from beyond the arc while the Eagles connected on seven of their 27 tries. LeTourneau finished with a 39-38 edge in rebounding.
With Baitey and Avant each scoring 11 points, the Eagles assumed a 46-37 lead at halftime. Emory was successful on 48.6 percent (18 of 37) of its field goal opportunities while the Yellowjackets converted 36.4 percent (12 of 33). A 10-0 Emory charge early in the first, which saw Baitey and Avant each knock down three pointers erased a two-point deficit and gave the Eagles a 15-7 advantage. After a triple by LeTourneau's Colhoff, back-to-back buckets by Baitey and senior Donald Avant extended Emory's cushion to nine points. The Eagles took their first double-digit edge of the stanza with 10:11 on the clock after a layup by Christopher Avant, but LETU responded with five straight points to cut the Eagles' margin in half. Ahead by a 31-22 count, a 7-1 Emory spurt, the last two points coming by Baitey, gave the Eagles their largest lead of the half, 38-23 with 3:46 left.
NOTES – The team's 23 wins is the second-highest total in school history – the 1989-90 team holds the mark with 25 victories … Saturday's triumph upped Emory's home win streak to 36 games vs. non-conference foes … Rapp's 13 assists represented his 19th career outing with double digits in that category … Emory is 9-0 all-time at home in NCAA Tournament contests. … In his last seven games, Rapp has 62 assists with just five turnovers.