Game #27 • Holy Cross (13-15, 7-8 PL) at American (6-20, 3-12 PL)
Sun., Feb. 19, 2017 • 12 p.m. • Washington, D.C. • Bender Arena (3,500)
All-Time Record: American, 19-19
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 63, American 55 — Jan. 23, 2017
Stream: PLN — Dan Laing (PXP), Jeremy Huber (Color), Megan O'Keefe (Sideline)
American Game Notes
Holy Cross Game Notes
WASHINGTON — Sunday's meeting with Holy Cross will conclude the home portion of the regular season for the American men's basketball team. The Eagles are looking for their fifth win inside Bender Arena and will hope to go out in style for the four graduating seniors.
TICKETS: Tickets for this game are still available and start at just $7. Purchase the best seat locations today at AUeagles.com by clicking here. Current undergraduate, graduate, and WCL students are admitted free to all home basketball games in Bender Arena with AU ID.
News, Notes, and Storylines
ALL-TIME SERIES RECORD: The all-time series between American and Holy Cross is tied 19-19. The series dates back to the 1967-68 season. Since joining the Patriot League, American is 18-19 against Holy Cross. This rivalry has met six times in the Patriot League Tournament with each team winning games. The Crusaders took the first three in 2002, 2003 and 2007 while AU won in 2008, 2009 and 2014. American has won the last eight of the past nine games against the Crusaders and coach Brennan is 7-1 against HC.
HOLY CROSS SCOUT: Holy Cross enters Sunday's contest tied with Colgate for sixth place, but hold the tiebreaker with the Raiders after sweeping them during the season. Since the win against American on Jan. 23, Holy Cross has dropped five of the last seven games, but hold victories over the aforementioned Colgate and Lehigh. Holy Cross leads the Patriot League in scoring defense (62.6 points per game), steals (9.5 steals per game), turnover margin (+5.1 turnovers per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.21-to-1.0). The Crusaders are currently tied with Colgate for sixth place in the Patriot League. Holy Cross can still finish as high as third or as low as ninth in the final conference standings. Malachi Alexander leads the team by averaging 13.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. Senior guard Robert Champion has also enjoyed a strong season, averaging 12.9 points, 3.3 boards and 1.6 steals per contest. In addition, sophomore forward Karl Charles has added 9.8 points, 3.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game.
EAGLES REWIND VS. HOLY CROSS: Delante Jones led the Eagles with 18 points, but costly turnovers and rebounding allowed Holy Cross to come away with a 63-55 win. Mark Gasperini added 11 points and four rebounds in 17 minutes due to early foul trouble. Charlie Jones contributed eight points and Sa'eed Nelson had seven. Both played 40 minutes. The Eagles turned the ball over 23 times and were outrebounded 29-25. AU shot 50 percent from the field and struggled from the outside (6-of-19) and the line (5-of-12). Holy Cross also struggled to control the ball with 16 turnovers but made its mark at the line shooting 24-of-34. The Crusaders were led by four players in double figures. Malachi Alexander had 15 points while Karl Charles added 12. Patrick Benzan chipped in 11 off the bench and Robert Champion finished with 10 points connecting on 8-of-12 from the line. American trailed 28-23 at the half and never led by more than a possession. The Crusaders held an eight-point advantage 25-17 with 3:10 remaining. In the second half, Holy Cross jumped out to an 11-point edge, 42-31, on a layup by Benzan. AU cut the deficit to single digits late, but the Crusaders went 5-of-8 from the line in the final minute. The loss snaps AU eight-game winning streak over the Crusaders.
WHAT IT WILL TAKE FOR AN AU WIN: American didn't control the ball very well in Worcester, giving away the rock 23 times. American will need a solid and a mentally tough performance from point guard Sa'eed Nelson in order to break down Holy Cross' 1-3-1 zone defense. Mark Gasperini will also be a factor for the Eagles. He finished with 11 points, but foul trouble once again hurts his efforts. In the previous loss to Lafayette, Nelson held court with the Leopards man-to-man defense but struggled once they dropped into a 2-3 zone. This allowed Gasperini the opportunity to shine, as he scored 18 of his season-best 20 points in the second half. American will also need Delante Jones to return to his late season rookie form. Jones, had 18 points against the Crusaders and will be asked to help alleviate pressure from the freshmen heading into the PL Tournament.
KEY MATCHUP - PART II: The major battle will be Delante Jones and Karl Charles. Two players who battled hard last season that saw Jones walk away with the PL Rookie of the Year award. Jones is averaging 11.2 points per game this season compared to the 9.8 by Charles. Both have turned into the third scoring option for their respective clubs but can turn up the heat at any time. Both players finished in double figures in the first meeting. For the Eagles to come away with the much-needed victory, it will be up to the veteran of 56 career games to carry the load.
WINNING IS IMPORTANT, BUT DEVELOPMENT IS KEY: When head coach Mike Brennan took over the program on April 30, 2013, he spoke about developing players and making them into the best they can be. Since then, Brennan has seen the maturation process of several holdovers and recruited players. Jesse Reed '16 became a good example. He started every game he played under the Brennan watch and graduated with 1,405 career points. In two seasons, Pee Wee Gardner became a high-scoring guard who will forever be remembered by AU fans. In the past two seasons, Brennan has put an emphasis on younger players. In year three, Delante Jones, James Washington, and Andrija Matic saw veteran-like minutes as freshmen. Jones and Washington finished in the top four in team scoring. This season, Sa'eed Nelson and Mark Gasperini are Brennan's newest players going through a season-long development. Nelson leads the Eagles in points and Gasperini is third.