Takeaways from AU’s comeback win against Navy
The Eagle’s basketball analyst Austin Sternlicht assess how and why the Eagle prevailed over Navy on Wednesday night
The AU men’s basketball team extended its winning streak to three games with a 72-65 victory over Navy on Wednesday night. After starting league play 0-6, the Eagles have now won eight of their last 11 games and are right in the thick of things as league play concludes on Saturday. Here are some takeaways from the big win against Navy.
1. The Comeback
AU played sloppy basketball in the first half with ten turnovers and porous defense, letting the Mids shoot 13-25 from the field. The team was lucky to be down just 32-29 at the half. Earlier in the season, this team would roll over and end up getting blown out. It certainly looked that way early in the second half as Navy used a 15-4 run to jump out to a 47-33 lead with 14:49. But this Eagle team refused to back down. Three pointers by juniors Jalen Rhea and Charlie Jones kept the Eagles within striking distance. Then, down nine with just nine minutes left, the Eagles erupted on a 20-2 run to take a 69-60 lead. With just over a minute left, the Eagles hit enough free throws to secure the win. This comeback bodes well for the Eagles because and shows they will not panic when things look like they’re getting out of hand.
2. The continued growth of Delante Jones.
Coming off his game winner against Holy Cross, Jones has continued to establish himself as a go-to option for AU. The Eagles are now 3-0 in conference play when Jones scores at least 20 points, which the 6-5 freshman hit exactly on Wednesday. Jones still has areas he needs to improve on including understanding his value to the team. With 10:56 left in the second half, Jones picked up his fourth foul after stopping a layup attempt by Navy’s senior center Will Kelly. Jones saved a point as Kelly split the free throws but picking up his fourth foul meant having to sit out for about nine minutes of game time. Fortunately, head coach Mike Brennan was able to effectively use an offense-defense substitution package to sub out Jones on defense for Andrija Matic and bring Jones back on offense.
“You’d rather give up the two, have Delante out there, but that’s another thing that he has to learn, get used to, he’s trying to defend, he’s trying to make a play on the ball,” Brennan said. “That’s something that a veteran — a veteran would be able to make that play and make that determination.”
Jones played a major role in AU’s last winning streak, and the team will look to him to be a major contributor in the league tournament.
3. The re-emergence of Jesse Reed
While Jones is certainly the future of AU basketball, senior Jesse Reed is the present and has refused to go down without a fight in his last few weeks of his college career. Reed spent the early parts of the season helping to establish his younger teammates and prepare them for the stretch run of league play. Now that this time has come, Reed has come back strong and shown why he was selected as a preseason all-league player. In the eight conference wins, the 6-5 guard is averaging 16.8 points and five rebounds a game.
“I give Jesse a ton of credit. He’s been so consistent throughout the year, and it was tough early on when I’m telling him, ‘Pass the ball, pass the ball,’ because he’s wired to score, and he feels like, ‘I can score.’” Brennan said. “But he’s gotten much better as a passer, and that’s allowed these other guys to contribute and help him. So I think for him, for his game to sort of expand the way it has this year, it’s just a testament to him and what he does on a daily basis in practice. It’s hard to change your game but still have the scoring. He’s done that.”
4. Threes and frees
If you look at the box score, one of the major things that stands out is how differently the two teams fared beyond the arc. The Eagles went 9-18 including 6-10 in the second half. The Midshipmen on the other hand, were just 1-11. Free throw shooting also played an important factor. The Eagles were below their season average of 70%, but did hit 17-27 (63%). Navy’s inability to hit shots from the foul line helped let the Eagles come back in a game they trailed for the first 34 minutes. The Midshipmen were a weak 12-25 at the line and just 6-14 in the second half. Free throw shooting is important for the Eagles, especially when they are able to get into the bonus earlier in halves.
The Eagles final game of the regular season is on Saturday at noon against Loyola Maryland.