WASHINGTON – The American University men's basketball team was back inside Bender Arena for only the third time this season and improved to a perfect 3-0 on its home court, downing Patriot League rival Holy Cross, 53-49. Junior guard Jesse Reed enjoyed a big day, scoring a season-high 23 points on his birthday.
The Crusaders entered the game ranked eighth in the nation with 9.8 steals per game, utilizing a full-court pressure defense, but the Eagles did well to break the press and initiate it offense, while also getting to the line a season-high 33 times.
"We knew they were going to bring the pressure all game long and I thought we handled it fairly well," said head Mike Brennan. "They attack you defensively, they press you and make it hard for you to run your offense. They hurt us on the boards, but we stuck with it and were able to come out on top."
Reed led the way in more ways than one. Not only did he net 23 points on 6-of-13 shooting, he knocked down 10 free throws, becoming the first player to do so since Pee Wee Gardner in AU's overtime victory against UMBC last year. Reed also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds while playing 39 minutes.
Making the performance even more impressive was that it was done in front of his family, on his home court and on his 22nd birthday.
"I just treated as any other day," said Reed. "The most important thing was that we came away with the win. If that didn't happen, nothing else would have mattered."
American came out hot in its return to D.C., shooting over 55-percent in the first half (10-of-18), building a 10-point lead midway through the stanza and taking a six-point lead into the break.
Holy Cross was able to battle back however, scoring the first seven points of the second half to regain the lead.
The Crusaders built its largest advantage of the afternoon when a jumper by Justin Burrell made it 34-29. It was AU than had one last rebuttal as the Eagles regrouped to fight back into it.
The final seven minutes saw the score tied three times before AU went ahead for good on a free throw by Reed that made it 45-44 with 2:33 to play. The Eagles benefited from a plethora of Holy Cross fouls that put American in the bonus with less than seven minutes into the second period.
Senior guard John Schoof joined Reed in double-digit points and was one of only three players to eclipse nine points in the game. Schoof finished with 11 points, adding four rebounds, an assist, steal and 3-pointer in 37 minutes.
Holy Cross forward Malachi Alexander came off the bench to lead the Crusaders with 13 points and seven rebounds in only 23 minutes.
The Eagles were able to overcome Holy Cross' large advantage on the boards, 37-26, including a 15-3 mark on the offensive glass.
Neither teams shot well from long distance as the Eagles were only 2-of-12, while the Crusaders finished 3-of-12.
The win is the fifth-straight victory for AU over Holy Cross.
American will return to a familiar place on Wednesday night: the road. American plays its 12th away game in its first 15 games to start the season, playing at Loyola (Md.).
After the trip to Baltimore the Eagles return home to Bender Arena again next Saturday, January 10th for a 4 p.m. tip-off vs. Colgate. A limited amount of premium location sideline reserved chairback tickets remain for this game and can be purchased online 24/7 at AUeagles.com/Tickets by clicking here or by calling (202) 885-TIXX.