Men’s Basketball advance to Patriot League Championship final
The No. 6 seeded AU Eagles upset yet another Patriot League foe tonight, ending the No. 2 seeded Colgate Raiders’ season with a decisive 73-62 win in the PL semifinals. Aided by a combination of precise shooting and smothering defense, the Eagles are headed to their second straight Patriot League Championship final.
The Eagles become only the second Patriot League sixth seed to ever reach the Patriot League final. AU will face fellow underdog, No. 4 seed Lafayette College, March 11, in Easton, Pennsylvania. The Patriot League will see its lowest seeded champion regardless of the winner as no team seeded lower than second has ever won the title.
In front of Colgate’s home crowd in Hamilton, New York, the Eagles shot a season high 61.9 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from the three-point line. Senior guard John Schoof led all scorers with 17 points going 6-for-8 and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Senior guard Darius “Pee-Wee” Gardner wasn’t far behind, contributing 15 points of his own, going 6-for-8 from the floor, and dishing out a game high four assists. The rest of the Eagles starting lineup all finished in with double-digit point totals as well.
"I thought our guys did a great job of executing, especially in the early going. Colgate is a great team and even though they did not play the game they wanted to, I'm happy with the effort our guys put out there," head coach Mike Brennan said to aueagles.com . "Pee Wee and John have been such a big part of what we have done over the past two years and they continue to come up big for us."
The Eagles took advantage of 11 forced turnovers and scored 22 points, compared to the Raiders 11 points from seven turnovers.
Junior guard, playing center, Marko Vasic continued on his hot streak scoring 13 points, which marks his fourth game in a row reaching double-digit scoring. Before the beginning of his streak Vasic only topped nine points twice. Vasic’s ability to penetrate the defense inside for easy layup opportunities was vital in getting the Eagles off to a good start in the first half. Vasic finished the first half 4-for-6 and 5-for-7 overall. While limited after collecting four fouls in the middle of the second half, Vasic contributed 35 minutes before ultimately fouling out.
The Eagles and Raiders were evenly matched for the better part of the first half, trading baskets, until AU was able to go on a 12-2 run with six minutes to go until halftime. Plagued by turnovers and missed shots, Colgate could not stop the hot shooting AU. Over a span of four minutes before the half the Eagles did not miss a shot, going 8-of-8.
After shooting a season best 64 percent in the first half the Eagles went into the half with a commanding 38-21 lead.
The second half began with a pair of fouls on the Eagles and made free throws by Colgate's Ethan Jacobs to cut down AU’s lead to 15 points. In the next minute, Schoof scored five points to stretch the Eagles lead to 20 points.
The Eagles would keep a double-digit lead for most of the half, their lead ballooning as high as 22 points. With less than two minutes to play Colgate, down 12 points, went into full foul mode. With 2:30 to play, Colgate had its first single-digit deficit, nine, of the half.
With time running out for the Raiders, they desperately looked for the weakest free-throw shooting AU player to foul after every Eagle inbound. In the last 2:30 minutes junior guard Charlie Jones went to the free-throw line nine times, making five shots. While Vasic, targeted for his season 55.9 percent free throw shooting, was sent to the line four times, making three. When the clock struck zero and the Eagles were the victors, 73-62.
Going into the semifinals the lower seed only came out victorious two out of 46 times in Patriot League history. While the past was against the Eagles side, they will continue their road voyage to defend their Patriot League crown.