Four Eagles reached double-digits as the American University men's basketball team defeated Howard Tuesday night, 59-53, in Bender Arena. Simon McCormack, who made his first career start Tuesday, scored eight of his career-high 11 points in the second half helping the Eagles to preserve the victory. He was joined in double-digits by Rily Grafft who netted a team-high 13 and Nick Hendra and Stephen Lumpkins who each added 12.
American (1-7) held the Bison to just six points on 2-of-7 shooting over the game's first eight-plus minutes but failed to find the mark on the offensive end of the court and trailed 6-3 with 11:49 to play. A McCormack putback moved the score to 6-5 and keyed a 14-5 run to put the Eagles on top. American took its first lead off a pair of Blake Jolivette free throws, 11-9, and held a five point advantage, 14-9, following a Hendra three-pointer on the next trip down the court. Grafft gave the Eagles their largest lead of the half, 17-11, with a free throw with 5:24 remaining.
Consecutive Howard () buckets closed the score to 17-15 before a Chris White jumper in the paint tied the score at 19. American regained the lead on the ensuing possession off a pair of free throws by Hendra and closed out the frame on a 5-0 run, with all five points coming at the line, to take a 24-19 advantage into the intermission.
Hendra and Grafft led the Eagles in scoring at the break, tallying seven points and six points, respectively. Grafft also led the charge on the boards with five rebounds, helping American to a 17-6 advantage. The Eagles shot 43.8 percent from the floor in the frame while holding Howard to 35.0 percent and were a combined 9-of-12 from the charity stripe.
American pushed the score to 27-19 on its first possession of the second half as Jolivette found Hendra open for three. Howard used a pair of three-pointers to cut its deficit to three, 30-25, before back-to-back Grafft baskets regained a seven-point advantage, 32-25, with 14:33 to play. The Bison scored six straight points to make it a 32-31 game and then tied the score at 34 on a Mike Phillips free-throw with 10:45 remaining.
The lead changed hands four times over the next four-plus minutes as the two teams battled shot-for-shot. With the score tied at 45 and just 4:30 left, American seized control as McCormack stepped to the line and hit a pair of free throws to begin a 6-0 run, giving American the lead for good, 51-45. Howard brought the score to within two, 51-49, with just over two minutes to play but a Lumpkins uncontested lay-in regained a four-point lead, 53-49, with 1:26 remaining. The Bison again brought the score to within two following a pair of Calvin Thompson freebies but American sealed the victory by hitting 6-of-6 free throws in the final 28 seconds to take the win, 59-53.
McCormack scored eight of his career-high 11 points in the second half to help American hold off the Bison's charge. The sophomore, who was also making his first start on Tuesday, shot 4-of-7 from the floor, grabbed five rebounds and dished out two assists. Lumpkins notched 10 of his 12 points in the second half after foul trouble limited him to just nine minutes in the first. He added a game-high nine rebounds and matched his career-high with three blocks. Grafft notched 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting with six rebounds, one assist and one block while Hendra tallied 12 points with six rebounds, one assist and one steal.
The Eagles combined to shoot 45.0 percent from the floor, their highest total of the season, while limiting Howard to just 18-of-47 shooting. For the third time in four games, American owned the advantage on the boards and outrebounded Howard 30-23. American also held a 28-16 advantage in points in the paint while shooting 21-of-27 from the charity stripe.
American will return to action on Saturday, December 5, against No. 16/14 Georgetown in downtown Washington, D.C., at the Verizon Center. Tipoff is slated for 4:00 p.m. Tickets to Saturday's game are currently on-sale and can be purchased in person at the American Ticket Office or by calling (202) 885-TIXX. Live stats of the game will also be available through Georgetown's website by clicking here.