Jan. 20, 2006
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THE STORYLINE: The American University men's basketball team takes its longest Patriot League trip of the season, heading to Worcester, Mass., to square off with perennial PL power Holy Cross. The Crusaders have been an enigma to the Eagles, one of the few PL teams that carries a winning record against AU (8-3). HC swept AU last season, defeating the Eagles 80-56 in Worcester and 76-67 in overtime at Bender Arena. However, the previous season American captured the season series, but that is the only time the Eagles have won at HC.
LAST TIME OUT: It took Andre Ingram's game-tying three-pointers at the end of regulation and overtime to spark the American University men's basketball to a 7-0 run at the start of the second overtime, a lead which proved enough to take a thrilling 65-63 double overtime victory at the hands of the Army Black Knights in Bender Arena Wednesday night. Linas Lekavicius hit for 13 second-half and overtime points to give the Eagles their first overtime win since defeating Navy last year in March. After needing three-pointers from Ingram at the end of regulation and overtime to force the second overtime, Lekavicius hit for four points separated by another Ingram three to ignite the Eagles on a 7-0 run in the first 1:36 of double overtime. Despite Ingram fouling out and the team hitting just 1-6 from the line in the final 30 seconds, the lead did not get below four except as time expired on a 25-foot Army three with the Eagles in the clear. "I'm not sure we deserved to win ... but we'll take it," head coach Jeff Jones said. "We're thrilled to death to win, but we have to be better than that." After a back and forth second half which saw the Eagles take the lead early, give it up for seven minutes and tie the game with under four minutes to go, the game's balance came down to the final 30 seconds of regulation with American down two. Out of options, the Eagles put Army's Dan Borcherdt to the line for the one-and-one with his team up by three and 18 seconds on the clock. With the crowd roaring, Borcherdt missed the front end of the one and one, AU grabbed the rebound and pushed it down the court. Ingram took a handoff from Derrick Mercer on the left wing and with two defenders on him, used a ball fake, a quick dribble and pulled up to swish a three-pointer in the face of an Army defender to tie the game at 50 with just 10 seconds remaining. Out of an Army timeout, Jarrell Brown found himself alone on the wing after hectic pressure from Ingram, but missed a buzzer beater from three and the game went to overtime. The Eagles faced the same scenario at the end of the first overtime as they inbounded the ball with just 18 seconds left to Ingram in the corner down three. The junior captain paused briefly, elevated and buried his second clutch three of the night to tie the game with 15 seconds left. Army had another chance to win the game, but freshman Jordan Nichols, who controlled the paint for most of the night, rejected Army's Corban Bates underneath the hoop as time expired, sending the game into the final overtime. The drama at the end of regulation and in the first overtime was the product of American's shooting difficulties throughout the game. Outside of Lekavicius and Mercer who combined for 11 of 16 from the floor, the Eagle guards combined for 4-27 shooting. As a team, the Eagles shot 37.5 percent. To combat the woeful shooting, AU only turned the ball over four times and grabbed nine offensive boards and allowed only one for the visitors after the first half. American had four players in double figured led by Lekavicius' 15 points. Ingram hit for 13, 11 of which came in the final minute of regulation and the game's two overtimes. Mercer's 13 were one short of a career-high and Brayden Billbe added 10 points and nine rebounds. Nichols led the team with 10 rebounds, split equally on both ends of the floor. With the win, the Eagles improve to 6-11 and 2-2 in the Patriot League. Army falls to 4-12, 0-4 in the PL with the defeat.
ON THE SIDELINE: Head Coach Jeff Jones is in his sixth season at the helm of the Eagles program. He boasts a 81-82 (.496) overall record at AU, but his record over the past four seasons was 68-51 (.571). Jones is the first coach at AU since Eagles Hall-of-Famer David Carrasco to put together four consecutive winning seasons. Carrasco went 23-5, 22-7, 21-7 and 15-7 from 1957 to 1961. The four straight winning seasons are the most for AU since the 1974-75 team concluded five straight winning tilts.
RECORD VS. THE PATRIOT LEAGUE: American University possesses a 94-90 (.511) overall record versus teams from the Patriot League (See chart below).
Army 10-1 Bucknell 17-20 Colgate 8-3 Holy Cross 3-8 Lafayette 14-16 Lehigh 14-9 Navy 28-33 Total 94-90 (.511)MERCER HITS MILESTONE; CARR NEAR: With 13 points versus Army, freshman point guard Derrick Mercer surpassed 100 career points. He now has 105 career points. Meanwhile, freshman guard Garrison Carr is just five points away from triple-digit points.
TWO EAGLES NEARING AU TOP-10 IN BLOCKS: Both junior forward Brayden Billbe and freshman forward Jordan Nichols are nearing AU's top-10 all-time in single-season blocks. Billbe and Nichols both have 20 blocks; they need 30 to enter into AU's single-season top-10 blocks list.
GILMORE GETS HIS CONFIDENCE BACK: After going one-for-12 in the four games between January 2 and January 11, freshman forward Brian Gilmore's confidence was flagging. However, the 6-8 Virginia native seems to have found his stroke in the last two games. Against Colgate, Gilmore hit three-of-four shots, tying his career-high with six points. Then against Army, Gilmore went two-of-three, including one-of-two behind the arc, to once again tie his career-high with six points.
FINALLY ... A COMEBACK: American's 65-63, double-overtime win over Army on Wednesday marked the first time this season AU has won when trailing with 5:00 remaining in regulation. The comeback came courtesy of Andre Ingram, who had just two points entering the last minute of the game, but hit game-tying three-pointers at the end of regulation and the first overtime and finished with 13 points.
ANOTHER FIRST: American's win over Army Wednesday set another precedent. It was the first time in six wins that the Eagles overcame an opponent who outshot the Eagles. Army finished the game shooting 40 percent (22-55), while American hit 24-of-64 shots (37.5 percent).
OVERTIME KIND TO EAGLES WEDNESDAY, BUT NOT RECENTLY: Although the Eagles captured an overtime win Wednesday versus Army, `OT' has not been good to American over the past two seasons. Since the start of the 2003-04 season, AU has won just two of five overtime games. The last OT game for American - prior to Wednesday - was an 85-83 win over Navy in the first round of the 2005 Patriot League Tournament. However, the Eagles dropped three straight extra session games prior to that, including two against Patriot League foes.