In a high-speed, high-energy game, the AU men’s basketball team defeated the Howard University Bison 77-66 Nov. 29 at Bender Arena.
Riley Grafft led the Eagles (5-2, 0-0 PL) with a career-high 21 points off the bench, while fellow seniors Charles Hinkle and Troy Brewer recorded 17 and 14 points, respectively.
Simuel Frazier was the only double-digit scorer for the Bison (2-4, 0-0 MEAC) with 11 points.
The Eagles came into the game flying high on a four-game winning streak, most recently edging Cornell University 65-63 Nov. 27. AU also entered the contest having won its last eight games against Howard.
A minute after the tip, Brewer swished a jumper to start the game off for the Eagles, who came bursting out of the gates. After five minutes of play, a jumper from Blake Jolivette put the Eagles up 12-1 and capped a very one-sided beginning to the game. Faced with the deficit, Howard switched things up.
“After we charged out to that lead, I think Howard stepped up the tempo, … and we did not react very well,” AU Head Coach Jeff Jones said.
Faced with a full-court press, the Eagles held on to the lead as the game progressed, but had to run a different style of play.
“That’s not our comfort zone,” Jones said.
The Eagles withstood the press and at halftime, held a 32-28 lead. Tough defense and strong performances from AU’s big men kept the Eagles ahead.
Tony Wroblicky and Grafft were strong on both ends for AU. Wroblicky slapped down shots (three blocks) and was a defensive force for AU, while Grafft did everything from hitting 3-pointers to dunking.
The Eagles continued to outplay Howard in the second half, although the pace of the game threw them off a little.
“A couple of times we had guys making the right plays, but a little fast,” Jones said. “We had some botched plays [that] could’ve given us a little more breathing room.”
Free throw shooting was a critical factor in the game, with the Eagles making 35 of their 44 attempts, good for 79 percent.
Meanwhile, Grafft’s output was the latest of several strong performances this season.
“It started against Cornell,” Grafft said of his recent hot streak. “Troy hit me a few times. My teammates were putting me in a good position.”
Game-to-game consistency is something the team will look to improve as the season progresses, Jones said.
The Eagles will next face the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Dec. 1 at Bender Arena.