American University men's basketball earned a hard-fought victory Saturday afternoon inside Bender Arena, downing Lafayette 66-61. With the win, The Eagles improve to a perfect 6-0 in the Patriot League and sets up a showdown with Boston University next Wednesday in D.C., with sole possession of first-place on the line.
Lafayette gave American all they could handle in the game, as the Leopards shot over 50 percent from the field and held the Eagles to only 6-of-26 attempts from beyond the arc.
The back-and-forth battle went down to the wire, with 13 lead changes and 10 ties in the contest. In the end a 3-pointer from Darius "Pee Wee" Gardner with 1:39 to play made the difference, putting AU up 62-61.
"That was a big shot by Pee Wee. He has been making plays like that all season long for us," said head coach Mike Brennan. "Lafayette is a good offensive team and we struggled to defend them because of the amount of shooters they have. We played better defense in the second half and made some plays down the stretch."
Gardner, who entered the game 0-for-7 from 3-point range in the previous five Patriot League games, hit two from downtown against Lafayette, including the one that put AU up for good.
The redshirt junior point guard, and smallest player on the court, led all players in rebounding, pulling down seven boards in addition to his 13 points, six assists and two steals.
Offensively, junior John Schoof led the way with a game-high 16 points, pacing four Eagles in double-digit scoring.
Both teams shot over 45 percent from the field, and even though American hoisted 17 more 3-pointers than the Leopards, AU finished with just one-more made triple.
The Eagles held the advantage on the boards however, outrebounding Lafayette 32-24, grabbing 12 offensive boards which led to 14 second chance points for AU, 10 more than the Leopards.
American trailed with seven minutes left in the first half, but retook the lead to go into the break up 37-33. Lafayette built its biggest lead of the game at seven minutes into the second however, going up 51-45.
With senior center Tony Wroblicky forced to sit after picking up his fourth foul of the game at 12:10 in the second, the Eagles buckled down and got an impressive performance out of sophomore Jesse Reed who scored eight of his 11 points in the second half, playing all 20 minutes after being limited to only eight in the first period.