ATLANTA, Ga. – Davis Rao made a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds to play in the game to give 11th-ranked Emory an 85-84 win over 13th-ranked Whitworth in the second round of the NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament on Saturday evening at the Woodruff PE Center.
The Pirates finish the season 25-4 after they could not hold a 12-point lead with eight minutes to play in the game. Whitworth had rallied from ten points down in the first half and built their own double-digit advantage before the Eagles came back down the stretch.
Emory improves to 22-5 and the Eagles will advance to the Division III Sweet 16 for the second straight year.
George Valle, who led the Pirates with 22 points, made one of two free throws with 28 seconds to play to give Whitworth an 84-83 lead. That led to a wild exchange of possessions when Emory's Michael Florin turned the ball over by stepping on the baseline, but Whitworth gave it back when Christian Jurlina could not corral Valle's length of the court pass. Rao was able to work inside and got fouled by Jurlina. He had not been to the line the entire game, but calmly sank both shots. Valle's desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer was no good.
Senior post Adam Wilks came off of the bench for a double-double in his final game as a Pirate. He scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Whitworth jumped to an early lead on a basket by Jurlina and three-pointer by Valle. But then Emory began to hit from long range and Austin DaGue's three-point play gave the Eagles a 14-11 lead. Jonathan Terry hit three consecutive three-pointers to extend Emory's lead to 29-19 with 7:27 to play in the opening half. Still trailing 37-30 with just under three minutes to play, Whitworth closed the half on a 10-0 run to take a 40-37 lead into the locker rooms. Wilks accounted for eight of those final ten points.
The teams traded baskets in the early minutes of the second half before Whitworth used an 8-0 spurt to take a 52-41 lead after Emory was called for a foul and the bench was tagged for a technical. Kenny Love and George Valle made all four free throws to give the Bucs their 11-point margin. But Emory closed back to within 55-51 on a short basket by Terry.
Still only leading 62-58, Whitworth extended the margin out once again, opening a 75-63 lead with 8:06 to play. Wilks scored twice more during that run.
Emory's final run culminated in Alex Foster's disputed three-pointer with 3:19 to play that gave the Eagles an 81-80 lead. Foster scored again to extend the lead to 83-80 before Love converted a three-point play to tie the game for a final time 83-83 with 2:20 to play.
Valle made 6-10 from the field and 9-11 from the free throw line for his 22 points. He also dished seven assists and got two steals. In addition to the big nights by Valle and Wilks, Jurlina finished with 15 points and Love scored a dozen.
Foster, the University Athletic Association Player of the Year for Emory, led all players with 27 points. He also led the Eagles with nine rebounds. Terry scored 22 points off of the bench and Florin totaled 14 points and eight assists.
Whitworth shot 51.7% from the field, but only 29% (4-14) from three-point range. The Pirates outrebounded Emory 32-24.
The Eagles blistered the nets for 58% (30-52) from the floor, 53% (8-15) from beyond the arc. Emory's pressure defense forced Whitworth into 20 turnovers.
Whitworth completed its ninth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division III tournament and its tenth overall. The Pirates have won at least one game and advanced past the first round in all nine trips on the current streak.
Whitworth loses team captain Taylor Farnsworth and Wilks to graduation, but will return four starters to next season's squad. Love, the NWC Player of the Year, returns along with First Team All-NWC honoree Jurlina, Valle and Matt Staudacher.