Teams: American (18-12, 13-5 PL) vs. Holy Cross (19-12, 12-6 PL)
Date and Location: Sat., March 8, 2014, 5:30 p.m.– Bender Arena – Washington, D.C.
Series: 32th meeting; AU trails 18-14
Last Meeting: W, 63-57 – Washington, D.C. (Feb. 1, 2014)
TV: CBS Sports Network –Sean Grande (play-by-play), Chris Walker (analyst)
American University men's basketball, the No. 2 seed in the 2014 Patriot League Tournament, will square off against the No. 3 Holy Cross Crusaders for the third time this season, as the two teams meet in the semifinals of the conference playoffs, Saturday, March 8, at 5:30 p.m., inside Bender Arena and live on CBS Sports.
It will be the sixth television game at Bender Arena this season and second CBS broadcast with Boston Celtics play-by-play man Sean Grande on the call with Chris Walker providing color. American is 10-3 at home this season, winning three televised contests.
It will be the 32nd meeting (AU trails, 18-14) between the two schools in a rivalry dating back to 1967. Although the Eagles are down in the all-time series, they have won seven of the past nine and 12 of the last 16 meetings, including sweeping the season series in 2014. The Crusaders have been held to under 60 points only five times this season, twice coming against American.
AU and Holy Cross last met in the Patriot League Tournament in the championship game of the 2008-09 season, with the Eagles earning theirs second-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament after at 73-57 victory. After falling in their first three playoff meetings against the Crusaders, AU has won the past two. The lone meeting in the semis came in 2007, a 55-53 loss in Worcester, Mass.
American University boasts a 19-10 overall record in Patriot League Tournament games, advancing to the semifinals in 12 of AU's 13 years in the conference. The Eagles are 18-2 all-time in league playoff games inside Bender Arena with losses only in its inaugural season in 2002 and a double-overtime thriller in 2010.
Head Coach Mike Brennan has registered one of the best seasons by a first-year coach in AU history, winning 18 games overall and 13 in conference play – an American University record. His overall win total is only topped by Eagle Hall of Famer, Ed Tapscott (20 wins in 1983). For his efforts, Brennan was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year.
Senior center Tony Wroblicky was honored as the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-League selection as announced by the conference office on Monday. Junior point guard Darius "Pee Wee" Gardner and sophomore guard Jesse Reed were named to the All-Patriot Second Team, while junior guard John Schoof earned Third Team honors, giving the Eagles a conference-best, four selections.
American's offense continues to be one of the most efficient units in the country as AU ranks seventh in the nation in field goal percentage (.495), upping that number to .505 in conference games. The Eagles are also 39th in assists per game (15.3), dishing out 15.9 against league foes – also a conference best mark.
American forces its pace of play on opponents while protecting the rim, ranking 12th nationally, holding foes to under 60 points per game, allowing only 59.8.
AU also boasts a +6.7 scoring margin in conference games, best in the league, while knocking down 120-of-296 (.405) attempts from 3-point range, the highest mark in the Patriot League.
American opened the Patriot League slate with at 10-0 record, its best start in program history. The Eagles were one win shy of tying the all-time best start in the Patriot League record book and the best conference start in AU history when in the1980-81 season, then head coach Gary Williams led American to a perfect 11-0 mark in ECC play and a 24-6 overall record. During this year's streak, AU twice received a vote in the AP Top 25 poll, its first votes since the 2008-09 season.
Scouting Holy Cross
The Crusaders topped the No. 6-seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the quarterfinal round, 54-48, to advance to the semis. Holy Cross has won three of their last four, seven of nine and 12 of their previous 15, with a 9-6 overall record on the road.
First Team All-Patriot league forward Dave Dudzinski leads the Crusaders, averaging 15.2 ppg, third-highest in the conference, while leading the league 7.5 rpg. Holy Cross boasts one the best frontcourts in the league with the emergence of forward Malcolm Miller. The Third Team All-Patriot League selection is second on the Crusaders with 10.9 ppg and 5.5 rpg.
Head coach Milan Brown is in his fourth season as the head men's basketball coach at the College of the Holy Cross in 2013-2014. He owns a 35-53 overall record during his time with the Crusaders, to go along with a 20-22 mark in Patriot League play.In 2012-2013, Brown's squad went 8-6 in non-conference action, good for the team's first winning mark in non-league play since 2007-2008.
More on the Eagles
AU reached 13 Patriot League wins for the second time its 13 years in the conference. Dating back to AU basketball's inception in 1926, the Eagles have only reached 13 league wins in two seasons, both coming in the past six years.
Brennan led a team picked ninth in the preseason poll to a second-place finish in the conference, tying a program record with 13 conference wins and starting the league slate a perfect 10-0, one win shy of the all-time AU record set by legendary coach Gary Williams in 1980-81. American led all teams in scoring defense (59.2 points per game), scoring margin (+6.7), field-goal percentage (50.5 percent), field-goal percentage defense (41.5 percent), three-point field-goal percentage (40.5 percent) and assists (15.9). American became one of only five teams to open the conference slate with 10-straight victories.
Wroblicky, who entered the AU record books as one of 19 Eagles to reach 600 rebounds while becoming American's all-time leading shot-blocker, is the first AU student-athlete to be named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. Wroblicky manned the middle for an American team that led the Patriot League in scoring defense both overall (60.1 ppg) and in league games (59.2 ppg). The Eagles also led the Patriot League in field-goal percentage defense both overall and in League play.
Wroblicky was also honored as a first-team All-Patriot League selection, leading the Eagles and finishing second in the league with 7.3 rebounds per game and 2.0 blocks per game. He led all players in league games with 8.6 rebounds per contest. The Harbor City, Calif., native had a career year with 12.2 ppg, 2.2 assists per game, a .594 field goal percentage and .708 free throw percentage.
Gardner keyed an American offense that is seventh in the nation in field goal percentage and 41st nationally with 15.2 apg. Gardner was AU's "iron man," playing 36.8 minutes per game, a league high, ranking 17th nationally, while scoring 11.3 ppg and pacing American with 4.4 apg -- all in his first season in Washington, D.C.
Reed is one of the most improved players in the Patriot League, finishing the regular season as AU's leading scoring with 14.2 ppg after scoring only 3.7 last season. The second-year swingman ranked fifth in the conference during the regular season in scoring, upping his average to 15.1 in league games; good for third overall. Reed was also locked in from 3-point range, knocking down nearly half of his long-range attempts, 56-of-114, ranking 12th nationally (.491).
Schoof was one of four AU players to average double-digit points this season, scoring 11.8 ppg, good for 18th in the league. American's co-captain with Wroblicky; Schoof dedicated work ethic on and off the court was a driving force for the Eagles this season, while the third-year guard also transformed his own game. Schoof went from a 3-point specialist last season, to all-around force in Coach Brennan's new offense in 2013-14. Schoof still finished third in the Patriot League with 64 3-pointers made and 2.2 3pg.
Wroblicky has etched his name into the American record book several times this season, recording his 500th career rebound at Holy Cross. The fourth-year center also became the fifth player ever in AU history to reach 100 blocks earlier this season and now owns the all-time career rejections record at 148. The big man is also currently second on the singe-season blocks list, swatting 58 this season – three behind the leader.
AU's program record 71.4 field goal percentage against Boston U. earlier this season just missed the all-time Patriot League record of 71.7%, while the Eagles 78.6% 3-PT would have been the record but Bucknell hit 80% against Lafayette only a week prior.
Social Media Insider
A limited amount of premium location sideline reserved tickets are available for Saturday's semi-final game in Bender Arena vs. Holy Cross, and can be purchased in any of the following ways:
--Online 24/7 via AUeagles.com/Tickets
--By calling (202) 885-TIXX
--Visiting the Bender Arena Ticket Office this week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m
Ticket pricing, set by the Patriot League, is $14 for adults and $7 for youth (16 and under) and seniors (65+).