Maybe the AU men’s basketball team believed a nine-game winning streak against Army dating back to when Kennedy roamed the West Wing and its 5-11 record were enough for a second straight Patriot League win.
But instead it took two overtimes and two game-tying 3-point shots from junior guard Andre Ingram for AU to escape any talk of Army being due with a 65-63 win Wednesday at Bender Arena.
AU (6-11, 2-2 PL) jumped out to a seven-point lead in the second overtime, its first since leading 43-41 with 4:47 remaining in the second half. The run ended up being just enough to get by the pesky Black Knights (4-12, 0-4), who managed just six points in the second overtime.
The Eagles turned around a horrific first half in which they gave up 11 turnovers and managed just three assists.
“We didn’t come out ready to play,” Ingram said of the first-half struggles. “Army hit us first, and they hit us hard. We were able to fight back, but it should have never gotten to that point.”
AU opened the second half on an 11-3 run and regained a 30-28 advantage. Junior Brayden Billbe and freshman Derrick Mercer lead the AU run with eight combined points. It didn’t last long as Army rattled off the next six points on subsequent possessions.
But the story of the game was Ingram’s 3-point shot with just 10 seconds remaining in regulation. Ingram managed to score from the left wing despite two Army defenders draped over him.
Then, with 14.5 seconds left in the first overtime, Ingram fired a 3-pointer from the opposite wing to tie the game, 57-57. Both shots fell despite a poor shooting night for Ingram who went 4 of 17 from the field.
“You want to take shots like that,” Ingram said. “I’m the leader of this team, and my teammates want me to get the ball in that situation, and I want the ball in that situation.”
AU struggled to find its rhythm, scoring just two field goals in the last ten minutes of the first-half. The Eagles struggled in their half-court sets and turned the ball over 11 ts as the shot clock expired. The first came on a three-pointer with 4:44 remaining in the first half, the next on a dribble pull-up from eight feet capping a 14-2 Army run.
The Eagles played small ball for most of the game, keeping junior Paulius Joneliunas on the bench and rotating Billbe and freshman Jordan Nichols.
Nichols blocked two shots, one coming against Army big man Corban Bates as the buzzer sounded to preserve the tie to end the first overtime.
But in the end, it was Ingram’s night. He played a game high 48 minutes with 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal before. He was also honored in a pregame ceremony for scoring his1000th career point on Jan. 2 at St. Francis (Pa.).
“Ingram missed some shots, but he did a heck of a job defensively and in other ways, and that’s what good team players do,” Jones said.