Eagles Hit Road Looking to Knock Off Patriot League's Top Team

Eagles Hit Road Looking to Knock Off Patriot League's Top Team

Feb. 7, 2006

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THE STORYLINE: The American University basketball looks to break out of a tie for fourth place in the Patriot League, but they will face a stiff challenge in the form of the Bucknell University Bison, the league's dominant team. The Bison, winners of nine straight, are 18-3 overall and 9-0 in the Patriot League. Furthermore, BU is 8-1 at home, with its only loss coming to fourth-ranked Villanova. However, the Eagles gave the Bison quite a challenge earlier this season in a 58-50 loss to Bucknell in Washington. American has been up and down since then, winning two straight after that loss, but dropping three of its last four. The Eagles are 1-3 on the road in the PL, with their only win coming in dominating fashion at Colgate. In Patriot League play, only junior captain Andre Ingram is averaging double digits, tallying 11.1 ppg. However, freshman piont guard Derrick Mercer has proven his mettle, hitting 47 percent of his shots and sporting a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ration in league play.

LAST TIME OUT: In a tightly contested game throughout, the American University men's basketball team could not overcome the Patriot League's second-place team on its home court, losing 65-58 in Stabler Arena. The loss, which drops AU to 3-5 in the PL, came despite a career-high 21 points from center Paulius Joneliunas. With 14:48 left in the second half, AU and Lehigh were tied, 44 a piece. It was the game's eighth tie. However, the Mountain Hawks went on a 7-0 run, keyed by a pair of buckets from James Anderson and a three-pointer by Joe Knight, to pull ahead, 51-44. American could get no closer than four the rest of the way. Lehigh hit six-of-six free throw attempts in the last 21 seconds to seal the win. American trailed at halftime, 33-32, despite outshooting the hosts in the period, 48 percent to 32 percent. However, the Mountain Hawks hit six-of-11 three pointers (55 percent) and went nine-for-11 from the free throw line to make up the difference. AU had a 27-19 lead with just over four minutes left in the period, but Lehigh closed out the half with a 14-6 run, keyed by seven points by Jose Olivero. Olivero led the Mountain Hawks, who improve to 14-9 overall and 7-1 in the PL, with 21 points, including 10 from the line. Joneliunas' 21 points led the Eagles, while Garrison Carr had 13 points.

ON THE SIDELINE: Head Coach Jeff Jones is in his sixth season at the helm of the Eagles program. He boasts a 82-85 (.491) 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 95-92 (.508) overall record versus teams from the Patriot League (See chart below).

Army	        10-1
Bucknell	17-20
Colgate	        8-3
Holy Cross	3-9
Lafayette	15-16
Lehigh	        14-10
Navy	        28-33
Total	        95-92 (.508)
SECOND TIME THROUGH: This is American's fifth season in the Patriot League. In it's previous four seasons in the league, American has shown its mettle in the second half of the year. Overall, AU sports an 18-11 record in the second seven games of the Patriot League docket.

LAST MEETING: Leading at the start of the second half and down only three with just over two minutes left in the game, the American University men's basketball team gave up six straight points, eventually falling 58-50 to Bucknell University. Down 49-40 with just under four minutes to play, American's Jordan Nichols converted a three-point play and Andre Ingram hit a three from the corner to put the Eagles down three with 2:27 to go. That was as close as AU would get for the remainder of the game as Bucknell's Charles Lee hit an off balance foul-line jumper and the Bison scored back-to-back layups to build an insurmountable 55-46 lead with just 52 seconds to go.

NICHOLS NEARING MILESTONES: Freshman Jordan Nichols is just four points away from 100 in his career, after averaging 4.6 ppg thus far. Perhaps more impressive, however, is that he surpassed 100 career rebounds two games ago. He now has 104 for his career. Even more astounding, nearly half of Nichols' rebounds are of the offensive variety; he has 53 defensive rebounds and 51 offensive boards. Furthermore, Nichols is just two blocks from tying for 10th place all-time at AU in single season blocks. He has 28 thus far, including a six-block game. Meanwhile, fellow freshman Garrison Carr surpassed 100 career points with his 13-point effort at Lehigh. He now has 111 career points, making him the second AU freshman - behind Derrick Mercer, who has 125 career points - to surpass triple digits in points.

EITUTAVICIUS RANKED IN TOP-10 NATIONALLY IN FREE THROWS: Junior guard Arvydas Eitutavicius entered this week ranked seventh nationally in free throw percentage. As of Jan. 30, Eitutavicius had hit 53-of-58 free throw attempts (91.4 percent). He is now 55-of-60 for the season, after going two-for-two against Lehigh. However, Eitutavicius is precariously close to the NCAA minimum; players must make at least 2.5 free throws per game to be eligible. Eitutavicius has made 2.62 per game.

DOMINATING DEFENSE BY DIMINUTIVE DERRICK: Freshman point guard Derrick Mercer has proven that his small size (5'9") is not a hindrance to his defensive capabilities. The New Jersey native and former St. Anthony's player, whom former head coach Bob Hurley deemed one of the "top five on-ball defenders" he has ever coached, came into AU with a reputation for hounding ballhandlers and forcing bad decisions. However, Mercer has gone beyond all expectations thus far, particularly against PL PGs. See below for the astounding defensive numbers versus opponents' point guards.

Category	Opp. PG FG	Opp. PG 3-Ptrs	Opp. PG Pts.	Opp. PG Assts	Opp. PG TOs
All Teams	46-140 (.329)	18-58 (.310)	158 (7.5)	90 (4.3)	51 (2.4)
Non-Conference	32-87 (.368)	15-39 (.385)	108 (8.3)	52 (4.0)	30 (2.3)
Patriot League	14-53 (.264)	3-19 (.158)	50 (6.3)	38 (4.8)	21 (2.6)
STRUGGLING VS. THE BISON: Junior guard Andre Ingram is just 17-of-78 (.218) from the floor in six career games vs. Bucknell. Ingram averages 8.3 ppg against BU.