SALEM, VA --- The Runnin Royals came up just short in Saturday's effort at knocking off the ODAC preseason favorite, dropping a 67-63 decision at Roanoke.
EMU held the Maroons to nine points less than their season scoring average; in fact, it was the lowest scoring win of the year for Roanoke (12-4/5-2 ODAC). Despite the Royals' fantastic defensive effort, they simply couldn't hit enough of their own shots to pull off the upset, shooting just 40% from the floor.
The teams traded buckets and leads throughout much of the first half, with Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) giving EMU (8-8/3-4 ODAC) their biggest lead at 18-15 after a three pointer at the 8:58 mark. Unfortunately, that preceded a cold spell of more than four minutes as Roanoke bolted to a 25-18 cushion.
The Royals responded with six straight to get within one point, but still trailed 30-27 at the break.
After a turnover-prone first half, both teams tightened things up in the second.
The margin stayed about the same until Roanoke got seven straight points from preseason All-American Josh Freund to bump to a 51-40 lead.
In the final five minutes, the men made one last run. Six unanswered points cut the margin to 57-52. Then a quick 5-0 jab, capped by a steal by Clower and a three-point play from Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern), got EMU within 61-58 with 1:43 to play.
Freund drew a foul inside and put in both free throws, but Jamel Howard (Leesburg, Va./Tuscarora) splashed in a three from the right corner, capping a 15-6 run and getting EMU within 63-61 inside the final minute.
The teams traded free throws, with EMU's coming from Tariq Caldwell (Richmond, Va./Lee-Davis) after an offensive rebound with 23 second left.
With the shot clock off and down by two, the men needed a steal or foul, and they were forced to settle for the latter. Joe Mikalauskas hit both of his free throws with 10 seconds to play to put the lead at 67-63, and Maroons then clogged things up on defense and EMU got nothing off but an off-balance attempt at the final buzzer.
Despite being out-shot 53% to 40%, Eastern Mennonite earned a 28-25 rebounding advantage, including 10-4 off the offensive glass. They stayed in the game by getting to the free throw line, making 15-of-19 attempts. Roanoke was 12-of-14 from the line.
Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central) scored a team high 16 points with three steals. The sophomore point guard played 37 minutes and led his team in shot attempts, but also took incredible care of the ball by not making a single turnover. Clower finished with 15 points and three more of EMU's nine steals.
Caldwell had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, tagging his third double double in the past four games.
Freund proved his worth with a game high 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting, adding six rebounds.
The Royals hit the road again on Wednesday, making the long weekday trip to Virginia Wesleyan. Game time in Virginia Beach, Va., is 7:00pm.