WASHINGTON – In a regional battle between teams that won their leagues and went to the NCAA Tournament last season, it was American University that came out on top over Mount St. Mary's on Saturday afternoon at Bender Arena. Trailing by one, senior point guard Pee Wee Gardner was able to weave his way to the basket and lay one in with only 0.5 seconds left for the 46-45 win.
American (7-4) led for much on the contest but a 3-pointer by Mount (3-6) with 2:23 to play put the Mountaineers in front. Neither team was able to convert on the next four possessions and AU benefited from a missed free throw with 15 seconds left to set up Pee Wee for the go-ahead score.
"We knew with the way Mount was switching on defense, it would be hard to get an open look. With Pee Wee we knew something good would happen if we put the ball in his hands," said head coach Mike Brennan. "His energy level is off the charts and it's amazing what he can do both offensively and defensively.
On an afternoon where AU faced a constant full court press and 3-pointers being tough to come by, it was Gardner who took over, scoring a game-high 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, but none bigger than his final lay in.
Pee Wee made his move from the top of the key with four seconds left, pushing his defender right, before crossing over left, getting just enough space to put one up and under past the outstretched arm of Mount's 7-foot center, Taylor Danaher.
"With their defense, we knew the big guy would be on me. I just tried to be aggressive, got a solid lane and just tried to get a shot up before the buzzer went off," said Gardner.
AU only hit 3-of-16 from downtown, but converted on 18-of-30 shots from inside the arc, shooting 45.7 percent from the field for the game.
American went with a small lineup, giving up an advantage on the boards, but did well to outscore Mount 26-14 in the paint, while capitalizing on the Mountaineers mistakes, scoring 15 points on 11 turnovers.
American's defense showed well yet again, holding Mount to only 19 points in the first half. It was the fifth time this season the Eagles have held an opponent to 20 points or less in a half. The Mountaineers were also held without a double-digit scorer in the game.
Junior forward Marko Vasic came off the bench for Coach Brennan, posting one his best games at AU with nine points and a team-high seven rebounds in 30 minutes of action.
For the second-straight game, sophomore forward Charlie Jones found himself giving up eight inches to his opposition, guarding a 7-footer yet again. Jones followed up his career performance at La Salle with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, grabbing three boards with two assists.
Junior guard Jesse Reed joined Gardner in double-figure scoring, adding 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field with three rebounds and two assists.
It was only the second game AU has played at home in Bender Arena this season and the Eagles hit the road once again this coming Tuesday, playing a pre-Christmas eve game at Stony Brook at 7 p.m.
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Junior forward Jonathan Davis will not play for AU in 2014-15 after being declared academically ineligible.