Despite a quick start to the game, a bad stretch going into halftime cost the EMU men, as they dropped a 70-65 decision to Virginia Wesleyan Wednesday evening in Yoder Arena. The Royals nearly erased a 16-point deficit in the second half before coming up short.
Matched up with the ODAC's second-place team, Eastern Mennonite jumped to an 8-2 lead. The Marlins turned things around quickly, however, scoring the next nine points to take the lead and eventually surging to 25-14.
The Royals answered with a 9-2 run, trimming the deficit to 27-23, but Virginia Wesleyan ended the half on their own 9-2 run to take a 36-25 lead into the locker rooms.
Midway through the second, the Marlins had their biggest lead of the game at 56-40. EMU's men responded with a big run over the next three minutes, with R.J. Sims (Fort Washington, MD/Friendly) drilling a three pointer to cap a 12-3 spurt to make it 59-52 with 6:32 remaining.
With the home crowd now adding some energy, the Royals hung around and eventually got within four when Andrew Thorne (Front Royal, VA/Skyline) made a free throw with 1:38 to go. After a VWC bucket, Sims canned a jumper to keep the deficit at four, 64-60 with 48 seconds to go.
The men turned to fouling, and Sedric Nady (Chicago, IL/ Landstown) nearly left the door open by missing the front end of a bonus toss, but Chris Astorga (Suffolk, VA/Cape Henry) bailed him out by sneaking in for an offensive rebound. VWC's senior made both of his attempts with 43 ticks left to push the edge back to 66-60.
Sims missed a three on EMU's next possession, but Dajon Daniel (Fredericksburg, VA/Mountain View) handed his offensive rebound out to Thorne, who calmly buried a jumper to get back within 66-62.
After another pair of Marlin free throws, Adam Burroughs (Roanoke, VA/Northside) missed a long three pointer and Thorne couldn't connect after an offensive rebound. Astorga made two more charity tosses and EMU got a triple at the buzzer to produce the final margin, 70-65.
EMU shot 41% in the loss, while Virginia Wesleyan shot 40%. The biggest difference came from long range, where the Marlins were 8-of-25 compared to 3-of-15 for the Royals. The visitors also had an edge at the free throw line, 14-19 to 8-12.
Daniel finished with 11 rebounds and 10 points for his first career double double. Thorne and Owen Longacre (Telford, PA/Christopher Dock) each scored 12 points. Sims charted 10. David Falk (Madison, VA/Madison) had eight points, six rebounds and three blocks.
Astorga led all players with 15 points. Nady and Tre Ford (Falls Church, VA/J.E.B. Stuart) each added 13 for the Marlins.
The loss drops Eastern Mennonite to 13-9 overall and 6-7 in the ODAC. The men are tied for eighth place in the conference with Washington and Lee, just one game behind Bridgewater College. The fifth through eighth seeds will host First Round games of the ODAC Tournament on Feb. 19.
The Royals play their final road game of the regular season this Saturday, heading to Randolph-Macon. Game time in Ashland is 2:00pm.