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Men’s basketball upsets BU in PL quarterfinals, 69-64

The sixth-seeded AU defeated third-seeded BU, move on to face second-seeded Lehigh

Men’s basketball upsets BU in PL quarterfinals, 69-64

AU junior Jalen Rhea guards Loyola's Andre Walker in the Eagles' victory over the Greyhounds on Feb. 27 in Bender Arena 

The AU men's basketball team hadn't beat Boston University since the 2014 Patriot League Tournament final. The four game losing streak ended last night, however, when the Eagles outlasted the Terriers for the 69-64 win to move on to the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament.

The Eagles will travel to Bethlehem, PA to play second-seeded Lehigh and two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Tim Kempton on Sunday. The surging Eagles are having a eerily similar second half season as the 2014-15 season when AU also entered the Patriot League tournament as the sixth-seed, upsetting third-seeded Colgate in the quarterfinals and second-seeded Lehigh in the semifinals on the road to the Patriot League final versus Lafayette.

Since taking over as head coach, Mike Brennan has amassed a 6-1 Patriot League Tournament record. The Eagles, as a program, have reached the semifinals 14 times in the last 15 seasons.

Both senior guard Jesse Reed and Patriot League Rookie of the Year Delante Jones started the game sluggish and off balance, missing layups and taking hurried shots. However, junior guard Jalen Rhea provided the spark the Eagles needed off the bench, scoring 15 points in 24 minutes. Rhea continued his season-long strategy of hiding in the corner for the eventual three-pointer, going 4-for-5 from the arc. Junior center Paris Maragknos also provided offense early on, scoring seven points in nine minutes of play.

Reed and Jones would regain form later on, finishing with 11 and 14 points respectively.

The Eagles entered halftime with a 37-33 lead, but the Terriers closed the scoring gap and tightened the game, coming as close as three points after being behind by as much as 12 points. AU was unable to close out BU earlier as Brennan elected to “go small,” playing with a lineup in which senior forward Marko Vasic, at 6 foot 5 inches, was the tallest Eagle on the court.

This short lineup struggled to pull down rebounds against the Terriers’ big man, allowing Boston to notch a series of second-chance points. The Eagles’ string of fouls sent the Terriers to the line in the pivotal final three minutes, but Boston failed to convert on its critical free throws and recorded a 9-of-20 free throw report for the entire game.

The Eagles held off the Terriers for the 69-65 win by running out the clock and playing “not to lose,” a risk that paid off.

Around the Patriot League Tournament

Second-seeded Lehigh barely held off seventh-seeded Navy from completing a 19-point comeback rally for the win. The Mountain Hawks edged out the Midshipmen in the final minute of regulation for the 65-63 win, with clutch free-throw shooting and an a complete game from Tim Kempton. The two-time Patriot League Player of the Year scored 22 points and pulled down 17 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season.

The Eagles’ upset win over the Terriers was not the biggest surprise of the tournament, as ninth-seeded Holy Cross knocked off first-seeded Bucknell on the road, 77-72 in double overtime. This marks the first time in Patriot League history the first-seed was defeated in the quarterfinals.

Fourth-seeded Army beat fifth-seeded Colgate 79-72 and will play Holy Cross at noon. The winner of Army and Holy Cross will play the winner of AU and Lehigh on March 9 in the Patriot League championship final.

jreyes@theeagleonline.com


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