The American University men's basketball team dropped a 56-51 contest Monday night at Columbia despite a late rally which saw the Eagles cut their deficit to just three points. Nick Hendra hit a three-pointer with just 0:34 remaining to bring the score to 53-50 but the Lions sank 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
Vlad Moldoveanu scored 10 of American's first 13 points as the Eagles jumped out to a 13-5 lead just over six minutes into the game. The junior began the scoring with two baskets in the post and then hit back-to-back three-pointers to cap off the run. Columbia got back into the game with a 6-0 stretch which brought the score to 13-11 with 8:25 remaining but a Blake Jolivette three from the right wing made it a six-point game, 17-11.
Jolivette's trey with 5:00 to play proved to be the final bucket of the first half for the Eagles as Columbia finished the frame on a 13-0 run. Noruwa Agho scored 11 points during the spurt, including three three-pointers. Columbia held the ball for the final possession and nearly extended its margin further but Kevin Bulger's jumper at the buzzer hit the back iron, sending the teams into the intermission with Columbia on top, 24-17.
Moldoveanu was held scoreless after posting 10 quick points to open the game and finished the half shooting 4-of-9 from the field with three rebounds. Jolivette had four points at the break to go along with two rebounds, three assists and one steal. As a team, the Eagles combined to shoot 6-of-19 in the frame against a 10-of-20 performance from Columbia.
Columbia's lead reached nine points early in the second half, 28-19, following three free-throws from Agho. Hendra ended American's drought with five straight points and after a Stephen Lumpkins lay-in with 13:53 remaining the Eagles trailed by just four, 30-26. American moved to within two points of the lead twice within the next minute but Columbia answered at the other end of the court each time to keep the margin at four.
The Eagles eventually overtook Columbia with five a 5-0 stretch and regained the lead on a Riley Grafft three-pointer, 35-34. Asenso Ampim put Columbia back on top on the Lions ensuing possession and moved the score to 38-35 with a layup in the paint with 8:18 to play. American later tied the score twice on layups by Moldoveanu and Lumpkins but five straight points scored by Zack Crimmins gave the Lions a 46-41 edge with 3:57 on the clock.
Columbia led by as many as six points with under two minutes remaining, 51-45, before a pair of Moldoveanu free-throws brought the score to 51-47 with 1:38 to play. Agho, however, responded with a driving basket to put the Lions back up by six on their next possession.
With just 0:34 remaining, Hendra buried a contested three from the top of the key to bring the Eagles to within three, 53-50. After a Columbia miss at the free throw line, American held the ball with a chance to tie the score. Moldoveanu's initial attempt came up short but Hendra was in position to make a play and put the ball out of bounds off a Columbia defender. Lumpkins was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play putting him at the line, where he made 1-of-2 to bring the score to 53-51 with 0:14 to play. The Eagles were unable to come away with a steal off the resulting throw-in and were forced to foul, allowing Columbia to secure the victory at the line, 56-51.
Moldoveanu scored a team-high 18 points to lead American. He also added six rebounds, two assists and one steal to his stat line. Lumpkins netted 11 points, all in the second half, on 5-of-7 shooting and came away with four rebounds. Hendra also registered in double-figures, finishing his night with 10 points, five boards and two assists.
The Eagles shot 40.9 percent for the game but were limited to just 30.0 percent shooting from three. Columbia, meanwhile, shot 48.8 percent from the floor and hit on 5-of-6 attempts from beyond the arc. The Eagles held a 30-28 advantage in rebounds and an 11-3 margin in second-chance points.
American will return to action on Saturday, January 9, when the team opens Patriot League play at Lehigh. Tipoff from Bethlehem, Pa., is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.