Thanks to a strong defensive stand at the end and a monster night by Trae Gaines off the bench, the Piedmont men's basketball team shocked the sixth-ranked Emory Eagles in an 87-85 victory inside Cave Arena, ruining the Eagles' unbeaten start. Gaines accounted for 21 points in just 24 minutes of play.
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The game came down to the wire as it was the Lions' defense that
had to win the game. The Eagles got the ball with 17 seconds left,
down by two and gave the ball to none other than Alex Foster who
finished the night with a game-high 23 points. Foster was
unsuccessful on his first 3-pointer but had one last chance as time
expired. By the time his missed three hit the court, the Cave
Crazies were already surrounding the Lions to celebrate the
Just two seasons removed from a season cut short, the Lions put themselves in the record books defeating their first-ever top ten ranked opponent in Cave Arena. This marks Piedmont's first victory over Emory since the 2008-09 season when PC defeated the Eagles on their home court with a 96-87 victory in Atlanta. The win is the first over a ranked opponent since an 82-75 win over No. 18 Centre in December 2008.
For Gaines it was a career best night as the sophomore was 8-of-12 on field goals with a career high 21 points. He is the third sophomore this season to have a career-high in points as both Chase England and Peyton Luken had stellar performances against Sewanee accounting for 22 points each.
These two teams battled throughout the first half, but neither team led by more than six during the first period. The Eagles took an early lead but Piedmont took control on a jumper by Gaines to give the Lions the 20-19 advantage and did not trail again until late in the half.
Jessie Jenkins had the highlight of the first half as he slammed it home on a dunk with 2:57 left to play to give Piedmont a six point lead, their largest of the half. The Eagles would rally back and the teams would settle for a 37-37 tie at the break.
In the second half, the Eagles came out hot on a 10-2 run to stretch the lead to 47-39 and looked to be in control of the game. The Lions continued to chip away at the lead but could only match the Eagles point-for-point, still trailing by six with 12:59 to go.
At that point, the switch flipped and momentum swung to the side of the home team with the crowd behind them as Piedmont saw back-to-back jumpers by Jenkins and Luken. Then the first of Gaines' 3-pointers electrified the crowd and gave his team a one-point lead 60-59. All three of his 3-pointers came in the second half.
A Jenkins jumper with just under 3:00 remaining on the clock extended the Lions' lead to eight points but the Eagles stormed back to cut it to two twice, with both instances coming off layups by Michael Florin. The Lions' defense held tough in the final moments and while it may not have been March, there was madness on the court when the clock hit 0:00.
The Lions as a whole shot 77.8% from the free throw line knocking down some critical ones in the final minutes of the contest. The team also had 27 points off the bench with 21 coming from Gaines' outstanding effort.
Five Lions were in double figures as Gaines, Jenkins, Chris Meeks, Brian Edwards and England each scored 11 or more. Meeks notched the only double-double in the contest as he accounted for 14 points and 10 rebounds.