More than anything, Newman coach Mark Potter doesn’t want his team to get too far ahead of itself.
He wants the Jets to take things day by day, to not invest too much in any one win or loss —the old mantra of never getting too high or too low.
Tuesday, in front of a raucous Fugate Gymnasium, his team showed they’re listening with a 69-62 win over Emporia State, pushing Newman’s record to 5-0 with a furious, full-court pressing rally after the Jets trailed 48-34 with 11 minutes to play in regulation.
“What we did, with the press, was no secret because we’ve done that every game,” Potter said. “I thought Emporia State prepared well for it, we were just able to force some turnovers that led to buckets.”
In the first half, the Jets kept it close thanks to 5-foot-10 senior guard Darrell Traylor, who scored 10 points in the first half and also had the game’s highlight play on a two-handed, alley-oop dunk from 6-10 Newman center Ryan Mesh that Traylor had to grab out of the air in traffic.
“The back screen and the pass were perfect,” Traylor said. “That was a play that (Potter) called out of the timeout.”
Leading 30-25 at halftime, Emporia State seemed to have an answer for every Jets basket and then some, reeling off an 11-0 run highlighted by three consecutive three-pointers —two from Chris Sights and one from Taylor Euler —to go up 45-32.
Sights hit another basket, plus the foul shot, to put the Hornets up 48-34.
“We knew the press was coming, so I don’t know if you can blame it all on that,” said Sights, who led all scorers with 23 points. “I think our offense just went stagnant and we left a lot of points on the floor, especially at the free-throw line.”
Newman does press every game, it’s just not always evident when their offense isn’t working —but when it finally did the Jets didn’t let up.
“You don’t see it because we’re in press after makes,” Potter said. “We did a better job of that late in the second half.”
A three-pointer by Newman’s Ryan McCarthy with just over eight minutes left got the Jets back within single digits at 50-42.
Emporia State had chances to extend its lead in the final two minutes, but Micah Swank missed a pair of free throws with the Hornets ahead 55-52 and Gavin Brown hit just one of two free throws with 1:46 remaining.
Newman forward Marquis Cuyler’s two free throws tied the game 56-56 with one minute left and after neither team could hit a bucket to win it, it was overtime.
“Being down, I think, actually brought us closer together,” said Traylor, who led the Jets with 20 points. “We just had to keep fighting and making plays.”
In overtime, it was Newman senior guard Shamar Acuay who took over. Acuay scored all six of his points in the extra time and his steal and pass to Traylor for another alley-oop dunk were the first points of overtime.
“I don’t think we really played our best game,” said Acuay, a second-team All-Heartland Conference pick last year. “But I also don’t think people expect us to beat (MIAA) teams.”
A pair of free throws from Acuay, a basket by Traylor and a free throw and basket by Newman guard Bobby Wesley —all in the final 1:30 of overtime —sealed the win for Newman, who can complete a sweep of Kansas’ four MIAA schools when they host Washburn on Dec. 15.
“When you don’t put someone away when you have a chance, this is what happens,” Emporia State coach Shaun Vandiver said. “We didn’t handle their pressure very well, I’ve got to tip my hat to Newman because they played a hell of a game.”
EMPORIA STATE (62): Sights 7-11 4-5 23, Wright 6-17 1-2 13, Brown 3-5 3-4 10, Shaw 2-2 2-2 6, Euler 1-4 0-0 3, Harris 1-1 2-4 4, Boutiler 1-4 0-2 3, Swank 0-4 0-3 0. Totals 21-48 (8-22) 12-23 62.
NEWMAN (69): Traylor 8-11 3-3 20, Cuyler 4-14 4-4 12, Mesh 2-5 4-4 8, Wesley 3-6 1-2 7, Beck 1-7 0-0 3, Acuay 2-11 2-2 6, Drayton 2-5 1-1 5, Pleasant 1-1 0-2 3, McCarthy 1-3 0-0 3, Thomas 0-0 2-2 2, Waldron 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-64 (4-20) 17-20 69.
Halftime — ESU 30, NU 25. End of regulation — 56-56. 3s — ESU 8-22 (Sights 5, Brown, Euler, Boutiler), NU 4-20 (Pleasant, McCarthy, Beck, Traylor). Rebounds — ESU 41 (Brown 8), NU 32 (Acuay 6). Assists — ESU 8 (Wright 4), NU 15 (Wesley 6). Fouls — ESU 19, NU 20. A — na.