Moldoveanu leads Eagles past reigning PL champions
The men’s basketball team on Saturday defeated last year’s Patriot League champion, Lehigh University, by a score of 82-75.
The first conference win of the year improved AU’s record to 11-5 on the season.
Senior forward Vlad Moldoveanu, the Patriot League’s top scorer, led the team with a career-high 39 points. The Eagles were able to shut down the Mountain Hawks but the league’s second-highest scorer, C.J. McCollum, was still able to post 32 points.
“If that’s any indication of how the league season is going to go,” Head Coach Jeff Jones said. “We’re all going to be in for a lot of excitement.”
The Eagles trailed early in the game, struggling to hit perimeter shots and gain momentum against an aggressive Lehigh defense. Both teams racked up a large number of fouls early on, which hurt both teams’ momentum.
Junior forward Stephen Lumpkins' back-to-back dunks gave AU momentum with 11 minutes to play in the first half and put the Eagles in the lead, 13-11. Neither team was able to pull significantly ahead of the other. Trading the lead six times and tying six others, Lehigh and AU were evenly matched throughout the beginning of the game.
Lehigh took the lead going into halftime following buckets from Mackey McKnight and Anthony D’Orazio to give the Mountain Hawks a 30-27 lead. AU shot an abysmal 36 percent in the first half, and made just six of 11 free throw attempts.
The Eagles looked like a completely different team in the second half. Moldoveanu and McCollum appeared to match each other shot for shot.
Down 47-44, AU went on a 21-11 run, highlighted by Moldoveanu, who scored 19 points in just a little over four minutes. The run produced AU’s largest lead of the night, beating Lehigh 65-55 with 8:34 to play.
“I had three guys around me in the playoffs [last year], so my mindset was I was going to get triple teamed [today],” Moldoveanu said.
Lehigh closed the gap and pulled to within two points after a three-pointer from Holden Greiner.
Moldoveanu ended the game 13 for 18 from the field and hit three of four three-point attempts. He also was a perfect 10 for 10 at the line and grabbed 12 rebounds. McCollum ended 10 for 22 from the field, hitting one three pointer and 11 of 13 free throw attempts.
“The guy I’ve got to tip my cap to is Nick Hendra,” Head Coach Jeff Jones said. “Guarding a guy like C.J. [McCollum] is a tough chore.”
While it was Moldoveanu’s offensive contribution that put the Eagles in the lead for good, Hendra was a crucial part of the attack. He had five assists alongside eight points and 10 rebounds. Hendra spent the better part of the second half driving towards the basket instead of staying out on the perimeter.
“When a team gets up and pressures [like Lehigh],” Hendra said, “I’m going to go down and go after them.”
Lumpkins had 16 points and nine rebounds on the day to contribute to AU’s 64 percent shooting percentage in the second half.
The win gave the Eagles a 1-0 record against Patriot League opponents and snapped a three-game losing streak to Lehigh. AU has had its best start since 1982, and four of its five wins have come to major opponents.
AU will return to Bender Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 12, to take on Bucknell University (10-7) in its second Patriot League matchup of the year.
“The key to conference play is to win at home,” Jones said. “You don’t want to let one of these slip away.”