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Freshman Daniel Munoz made eight free throws in the game's final 32 seconds to help lift the American University men's basketball team to a 70-64 victory Sunday afternoon over Catholic in Bender Arena. Sophomore Stephen Lumpkins led all scorers with 21 points and added 10 rebounds while classmate Simon McCormack scored 12 to go along with 10 boards.
American took an 11-6 lead over Catholic at the 15:27 mark following back-to-back three-pointers by Nick Hendra and Steve Luptak. The Eagles then extended their advantage to as many as 10 points midway through the frame, 20-10, as the team combined to sink nine consecutive free throws during a 9-0 run. Catholic, however, pulled back to within five on the scoreboard, 20-15, after a Jasen Banzhof three and trailed by only four, 26-22, following a R.J. Dixon trey with 5:51 remaining.
The Eagles quieted Catholic's momentum on the game's next possession as Hendra found his way to the basket for a lay-in, regaining a 28-22 American lead. AU finished out the half on a 13-5 run with Lumpkins and Steve Luptak each contributing four points, helping American to a 39-27 halftime advantage.
American shot a combined 41.7 percent (10-24) in the first half against 35.7 percent (10-28) put up by Catholic. Lumpkins tallied 13 points in the frame, connecting on 11-of-13 free throws, and pulled down eight boards by the break. The Eagles also received a lift off the bench in the form of McCormack, who totaled eight points and four rebounds in the half.
Lumpkins pushed American's lead to 14 points, 41-30, on the team's first possession of the second half but the Eagles saw that lead fall to just six points with 11:33 remaining after a Pennacale three. American answered the Cardinals' surge with a Hendra jumper and McCormack tip-in to regain a 10 point advantage, 49-39, and following another Hendra jumper led by 11, 51-40, with 9:11 on the clock.
Catholic scored five straight points to bring the score to 53-47 with just under seven minutes to play and threatened the Eagles lead down the stretch with timely shooting from the outside. After a Hendra layup moved the score to 60-51 in favor of the Eagles, Dixon sank two from the line to make it a seven point game, 60-53, with 1:44 to play. American again increased its lead to nine, 62-53, on a pair of McCormack free throws, but a Spencer Reed trey cut the Eagles advantage to six with just 33 ticks remaining.
Munoz was sent to the line on American's ensuing possession, where he calmly sank both shots. The freshman was answered, however, by a Pennacale three with 0:28 to play to make it a five-point game, 64-59. After two more Munoz freebies pushed the score to 66-59, Catholic answered once again with a three from the hand of Dixon, bringing the score to 66-62 with 18 seconds remaining. The Cardinals hot shooting, however, finally cooled as Munoz added four more free throws to his total, lifting American to a 70-64 victory.
Lumpkins impressed in all facets of the game, scoring a game-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. The sophomore scored the bulk of his points from the line, where he shot a remarkable 15-of-19. McCormack also recorded a double-double Sunday afternoon, scoring 12 points with 10 rebounds. The two were joined in double-digits by Munoz's 15 point effort, which included a 10-of-10 showing at the line, and Hendra's 11.
As a team, the Eagles shot 84.2 percent (32-38) from the charity stripe and were 17-of-20 in the second half. American finished the game shooting 36.2 percent (17-47) from the field and held a 37-32 advantage on the boards.
"We went out there tonight and were a little bit more aggressive. Hopefully that's our confidence from being in those game situations a little bit more," Head Coach Jeff Jones stated during his postgame press conference. "Certainly we were more efficient offensively than on Tuesday and that was an important factor in tonight's game."
American will now shift its focus to the regular season opener this Friday, November 13, at St. Francis. Tipoff from Loretto, Pa., is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The Eagles will then return to Tenleytown on Monday, November 16, for their home opener against Albany at 7:30 p.m. Prior to tip, American will celebrate its 2008-09 Patriot League Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance with a special banner raising ceremony. The first 2,500 fans in attendance will receive a free commemorative replica mini-banner courtesy of GEICO. Tickets for the home opener, in addition to season tickets, Bender Weekend Plans and individual game tickets for all games are on-sale now and can purchased by calling (202) 885-TIXX or by clicking here.