Feb. 22, 2006
THE STORYLINE: American hosts Navy in a game that could cement the Eagles in the four spot in the Patriot League Championship Tournament and help the Eagles finish with a .500 PL record. The game is huge for Navy, which is still alive for the fourth spot but could fall to the seventh spot. American will seek to avenge a 77-68 loss to the Midshipmen earlier this season, the first time Navy defeated AU in 15 years and the first win for the Mids over AU since the Eagles joined the Patriot League.
LAST TIME OUT: The American University men's basketball team clawed back from a 12-point halftime deficit to get within four points with just over a minute remaining, but Holy Cross hit eight-of-10 free throws down the stretch to hang on for a 69-62 victory Saturday at Bender Arena. Andre Ingram hit a three-pointer with 1:24 remaining in the game to make the score 61-57 in favor of Holy Cross. Ingram's trey culminated a 10-4 run for the Eagles over the previous four minutes. However, the Crusaders were on the mark from the line, led by Kevin Hamilton's four-for-four performance, to seal the victory. American was able to get back into the game because of solid second-half defense, allowing the visitors to shoot just 27.3 percent (six-of-22) in the latter period. Meanwhile, the Eagles hit 10-of-19 shots (52.6 percent) in the second half. With American trailing by three (11-8) at the 12:31 mark of the first half after junior Brayden Billbe hit a jumper, the Crusaders went on an 18-5 run over the next nine minutes to take a commanding 29-15 lead. The HC run was helped along by five Eagle turnovers. American attempted to chip away at the Crusaders' lead, getting the deficit to 11 points on a three-pointer by Arvydas Eitutavicius and a pair of free throws by Jordan Nichols. The Eagles went into halftime trailing, 34-22. Holy Cross held its lead thanks to 50 percent shooting in the opening stanza, compared to just 31 percent shooting for the Eagles. HC leading scorer Kevin Hamilton had 12 first-half points, while backcourt mate Keith Simmons had 10 points by the break. Ingram, who played all 40 minutes, led the Eagles with 16 points. American falls to 9-16 overall and 5-7 in the Patriot League. Holy Cross, which improves to 16-11 overall, 9-3 in the PL, is led by Keith Simmons with 23 points and Kevin Hamilton with 22 points.
ON THE SIDELINE: Head Coach Jeff Jones is in his sixth season at the helm of the Eagles program. He boasts a 84-87 (.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 97-93 (.511) overall record versus teams from the Patriot League (See chart below).
Army 11-1 Bucknell 17-21 Colgate 9-3 Holy Cross 3-10 Lafayette 15-16 Lehigh 14-10 Navy 28-33 Total 97-94 (.507)LAST MEETING: The American University men's basketball team held a six-point halftime lead over Navy Wednesday night, but the Midshipmen put together a 46-point second half to surpass the Eagles 77-68 at Alumni Hall. A solid effort in the paint and excellent ballhandling provided American with a 37-31 lead at halftime. American, led by 12 first-period points from Paulius Joneliunas, outscored the Midshipmen in the paint, 20-10. Also, the Eagles had just seven turnovers in the opening stanza, compared to Navy's 13. The 37 points in the first period tied for the second most in the first half this season, and was the second-largest first half lead of the year. However, Navy came out of the lockerroom and assembled a 13-7 run to tie the game at 44 a piece at the 14:38 mark. Navy then used an efficient offense, shooting 48 percent in the second stanza and turning the ball over just once in the latter period, to outscore the Eagles the rest of the way. Greg Spring led the way for the Mids, catching fire in the second period and scoring 19 points to finish with 27 for the game. He hit seven-of-10 three-point attempts.
OH NO ... NOT A TV GAME!: Although it's no secret that players love to play in front of a television audience, unfortunately for the Eagles, the bright lights of the television haven't produced the best results. American is just 1-4 in TV games entering tonight's contest on College Sports Television. However, American is on a one-game television winning streak, defeating Colgate on Feb. 12 on CSTV.
POSSIBILITIES: With two games left in the Patriot League season, American could finish anywhere between fourth and sixth in the PL standings. Only Bucknell (at 12-0) has clinched. The Bison, ranked 24th nationally, will host one of the two "mini-tournaments" the PL holds to determine its champion.
MERCER'S MINUTES: Since playing a career-high 43 minutes in the double-overtime win against Army on January 18, freshman Derrick Mercer has been an ironman. The 5-9 Jersey City, N.J., native has not played less than 34 minutes in the eight games since then, and is now averaging 33.2 minutes per game. Over his last nine games, Mercer is averaging 37.1 minutes per game. He played every second of AU's February 4 game at Lehigh.
OUR FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT, WE GOTTA WEAR SHADES: Fully one-third of American University's roster is made up of freshman, all of whom are gaining valuable experience in this their first season on the Northwest campus. The five frosh Eagles are also solid contributors to the squad. See chart below for the breakdown.
******** PPG RPG Assists Freshmen 20.9 11.1 125 Team 63.3 34.7 343 Percentages 33.0 32.0 36.4BATTLE ON THE (OFFENSIVE) BOARDS: Tonight's contest features an interesting `contest within a contest.' Visiting Navy is top-ranked in the Patriot League in offensive rebounds per game (13.6) while the hosts are ranked second in the league in O-rebounds (13.12 per game). The stat could prove vital in second-chance points, as both teams struggle from the field, making just over 40 percent of their field goal attempts.
KEY TO .500: AU needs to win tonight to maintain hope of a .500 PL record. AU has never had a losing record in its four previous years in the league.