The American University men's basketball team is headed back to the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles, led by first year head coach Mike Brennan, downed the No. 1 seeded Boston University Terriers in Boston, Mass., on Wednesday night, 55-36, to claim their third Patriot League Championship in seven years.
The No. 2 Eagles, who were picked to finish ninth in the conference standings, knocked off the preseason number one, relying on a staunch defensive effort, holding BU to 1-of-17 shooting from distance and 16-of-52 overall.
"It's a great feeling, but I am really just proud of our guys. The effort they have put forth since day one is amazing," said Brennan. "We really have been emphasizing defense, especially since the last game we played at BU and that emphasis showed tonight. Our players earned a trip to the tournament, through their effort tonight and hard work since this summer."
AU led from wire-to-wire, limiting a Boston offense that scored 91 points in each of its Patriot League tournament victories, heading into the championship game, to only 36 total points. Conversely, the Eagles offense was on point, knocking down over 55 percent of their shots (19-of-34), while outrebounding the Terriers, 31-25.
Junior point guard Darius "Pee Wee" Gardner scored a game-high 18 points, hitting 7-of-9 from the field, while adding two 3-pointers and four assists. Senior center Tony Wroblicky was AU's other double-digit scorer with 15 points, registering eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
The Eagles won their first Patriot League title since 2009, the second of back-to-back titles for American and will learn Sunday where they will be seeded for the NCAA Tournament, making their third-ever trip to the "big dance."
American was strong on the defensive end from the start, holding BU to 16 points in the first half on just 24 percent shooting (6-of-25). The Terriers were within four of AU at 16-12 with 6:25 to play in the initial stanza, but could get no closer to the Eagles.
The two teams traded baskets at the start of the second, with Boston getting to six at 26-20, but American got two (one-handed) free throws from Wroblicky on the next possession, followed by a lay-up by the big man to make it a double-digit lead for AU.
Boston had at last run, getting to within nine at 35-26, but the Eagles ended the game on a 20-10 run to knock off the Terriers.
American utilized the charity stripe, knocking down 81.3 percent from the line (13-of-16) while BU only connected of 3-of-7 attempts.
Gardner was voted the Most Valuable Player of the PL Tournament and joined Jesse Reed and Wroblicky on the All-Tournament team.
Check back on AUeagles.com this Sunday to find out what seed American will be slotted at in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and what region the Eagles will be flying out to.
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