March 1, 2006
THE STORYLINE: American and Lafayette square off for the second time in less than a week, after the Eagles captured the fourth seed in the Patriot League with a 77-67 win over LC last Saturday. Although the all-time series between LC and AU is knotted up at 16 wins a piece, history is on the side of the Eagles. AU has won two straight versus the Leopards and won both matchups in the Patriot League Tournament (66-58 in 2002 and 74-55 in 2003). The Leopards won the first regular-season series over AU in the 2001-02 season, but then the two teams split the series over the next three seasons. This is the second consecutive season in which AU has played the same team in the first round of the PL Tournament that it played in the last regular season game. AU went 2-0 versus Navy in the same situation last year.
LAST TIME OUT: Andre Ingram scored a season-high 26 points and the American University men's basketball team shot 51 percent as a squad, giving the Eagles a 77-67 win over Lafayette. With the win, American secured the fourth seed in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament and will face fifth-seeded Lafayette in the quarterfinals. After AU led, 40-34, at halftime, the two teams battled back and forth for much of the first part of the second stanza. With the score at 52-46 at around the nine-minute mark, Ingram virtually slammed the door shut on the Leopards' chances with consecutive three-pointers. Ingram's treys ended a 10-minute stretch in which the Eagles mustered just one field goal. Ingram carried the Eagles to a six-point advantage at halftime, notching 17 first-half points, including five three-pointers. Overall, American shot 58.3 percent in the opening half and held Lafayette to just 34.3 percent. However, Lafayette had just six first-half turnovers and nabbed eight offensive boards, allowing the hosts to stay within striking distance. Ingram hit eight-of-14 shots, including seven-of-11 three-pointers, while adding five boards. Junior forward Brayden Billbe tallied 13 points and finished just two boards shy of his second double-double of the season. The Eagles, who improve to 11-16 overall, finished their Patriot League docket 7-7, ensuring that they've never had a losing season since joining the PL in 2001. Lafayette falls to 11-16 overall, 5-9 in the Patriot League. Matt Betley led the Leopards with 10 points.
ON THE SIDELINE: Head Coach Jeff Jones is in his sixth season at the helm of the Eagles program. He boasts a 86-87 (.497) 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 99-94 (.513) 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 16-16 Lehigh 14-10 Navy 29-33 Total 99-94 (.513)MERCER, INGRAM HONORED BY THE PATRIOT LEAGUE: During the Patriot League conference call on Wednesday, it was revealed that point guard Derrick Mercer was selected by the PL's coaches as the Rookie of the Year, while junior guard Andre Ingram was named to the All-League Second Team. This is the third consecutive year Ingram earned a PL postseason honor, after being named to the league's First Team last season and picked as the Rookie of the Year in 2003-04.
INGRAM LOVES PLAYING THE LEOPARDS: Junior guard Andre Ingram, a second-team All-PL selection this season, has had great success versus Lafayette over his career. In six career games, Ingram is averaging 23.3 ppg versus LC, hitting 47.5 percent of his field goal attempts and 39.3 percent of his three-point attempts.
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 32 minutes in the nine 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 Feb. 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 freshmen, 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 Minutes Freshmen 20.1 10.9 133 1,963 Team 63.9 35.0 363 5,450 Percentages 31.5% 31.1% 36.6% 36.0%DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: American and Lafayette meet again today for the second time in less than a week. Last Saturday, AU defeated the Leopards to earn the fourth seed and wear the "home" jerseys for today's contest against fifth-seeded Lafayette. This is the second consecutive season in which AU has met its final regular season opponent in the first round of the PL Tourney. Last year, American defeated Navy at home in the final regular season game, 84-77, to clinch the third seed, and then defeated sixth-seeded Navy in Lewisburg, 85-83 in overtime, in the first round of the PL Tournament.
HIGH SCORES, NO BOARDS: American is hoping today's game follows the statistical patterns both teams have set thus far. Generally, Lafayette gives up a lot of points (over 72 per game); AU is 6-1 when scoring 70 or more and 6-0 when scoring between 70-79. Also, Lafayette does not rebound well (the `Pards are ranked seventh in rebounding offense and eighth in rebounding defense in the PL); All but one of AU's wins have come when the Eagles have outrebounded their opponent.
EITUTAVICIUS NO LONGER THREATING SINGLE-SEASON FREE THROW PERCENTAGE RECORD: Junior guard Arvydas Eitutavicius had been spot-on from the free throw line this season, even being ranked in the nation's top-10 for much of the year. Prior to the Lafayette game, Eitutavicius had hit 66-of-73 free throw attempts (90.4 percent). The school's single-season free throw percentage record is exactly 90.4 percent, set by Mark Garlitos in the 1978-79 season. Ironically, Garlitos hit 66-of-73 attempts that season. However, it is now unlikely Eitutavicius will break the record, because he went just five-of-10 versus Lafayette in the final regular season game. The 6-2 shooter would have to hit 44 consecutive free throws to get above 90.4 percent.
EAGLES ALL-TIME PATRIOT LEAGUE TOURNAMENT RECORD: American is 7-4 all-time in the Patriot League Tournament. The Eagles made it to the PL Championship Game in each of the first three seasons, but lost each time. American lost the first two times to Holy Cross and the third time to Lehigh on a last-second jumper by Jose Olivero. American has never lost in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament. See chart below.
Date Opponent Result 3/2/02 Lehigh % 82-69, W 3/3/02 Lafayette % 66-58, W 3/8/02 Holy Cross # 54-58, L 3/8/03 Navy % 72-57, W 3/9/03 Lafayette % 74-55, W 3/14/03 @ Holy Cross & 64-72, L 3/6/04 Army % 65-48, W 3/7/04 Colgate % 65-55, W 3/14/04 Lehigh 57-59, L 3/4/05 Navy $ 85-83, W (OT) 3/6/05 @ Bucknell $ 35-53, L Total 7-4 (.636)OFFENSE NOT STRUGGLING VERSUS `PARDS: American's shooters are looking forward to playing Lafayette again this season. Not only have the Eagles tallied two of the highest point totals of the season (77 on Feb. 25 and 74 on Jan. 28), AU has had its two highest field goal percentages. American shot a season-high 56.1 percent (32-57) in a 74-56 win over the Leopards in January and 51.0 percent (25-49) in last Saturday's win.
% Showplace Arena - Upper Marlboro, Md. # Bender Arena - Washington, D.C. & Hart Center - Worcester, Mass. $ Sojka Pavilion - Lewisburg, Pa.
INGRAM HITS SEVEN THREES VERSUS LAFAYETTE: Junior guard Andre Ingram was on fire versus Lafayette last Saturday, scoring 26 points and hitting seven three-pointers, including five treys in the first half. However, those seven treys were not even a career-high. In Ingram's first season, after which he earned the PL Rookie of the Year award, he hit eight three-pointers in 15 attempts in a Jan. 14, 2004, win at Navy (80-58). Ingram finished with 27 points in that game.
(ALMOST) NO COMEBACKS, EITHER WAY: If you look up at the clock with 5:00 left in today's game, it's almost a lock that the team leading will be the team winning, no matter how close the game is. In 27 AU games this season, only once has the team trailing at the 5:00 minute mark of the second half come back to win the game. In the Eagles' 65-63, double-overtime win over Army earlier this season, AU trailed, 41-40, with 5:00 showing on the clock. Even in that game, Andre Ingram hit game-tying threes at the buzzer at the end of regulation and with just seconds left in the first overtime to send the game to a second overtime, where AU eventually won.
STREAKING: American has won two straight games, over Navy and Lafayette, entering tonight's Patriot League quarterfinal. While that's encouraging - momentum is huge - it shouldn't be overlooked that AU has just one winning streak this season of longer than two games. American won its first three home games - versus Mount St. Mary's, Towson and Howard - but has not yet eclipsed a two-game winning streak since. The Eagles have won two straight games three times since then, twice versus Colgate and Army and one versus Navy and Lafayette.