Andre Ingram and Brayden Billbe scored 13 points each and the Eagles survived a late run to defeat Longwood 60-49 on Monday night at Bender Arena.
The Eagles (6-2) started out the game on a 15-2 run over the first seven minutes that gave them a comfortable lead. The sequence was highlighted by point guard Derrick Mercer, who stole Longwood’s first inbound pass of the game and made a quick lay-up to give AU a quick 4-0 lead just 25 seconds into the game. Mercer also drew three fouls, including two charging calls, on Longwood point guard Brandon Giles, limiting him to just eight minutes in the first half.
“Defensively it all starts with me,” said Mercer, who scored 12 points and grabbed five assists. “If I pressure their point guard, it limits what they can do and helps my teammates out.”
Longwood managed to cut the lead to 10 with a little over three minutes left in the first half, but strong play by guard Linas Lekavicius helped the Eagles extend the lead to 35-19 at the break.
The Eagles may have led by 16 points and shot 61 percent in the first half, but poor rebounding may have cost them a chance at a bigger lead. Longwood grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the half and 17 in the entire game.
“We didn’t rebound for the entire game,” Head Coach Jeff Jones said. “We’ve got a knack of relaxing once we get a lead.”
In the second half, Maurice Sumter and Lamar Barrett led the Lancers’ comeback bid, cutting the lead to 50-45 with six minutes to go. However, Longwood cooled off and Mercer and Billbe combined to scored AU’s final 10 points.
“The guys had a lot of energy when the came out, but we’ve seen a pattern of us not being able to sustain,” said Coach Jones. “We’ve got to learn how to keep our opponents down, that is what good teams are able to do.”
Sumter led all scorers with 15 points, while Barrett grabbed a career high 14 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass.
Monday night’s game was AU’s last home game of 2006. The next five games are on the road, including Saturday afternoon at Yale.
“This is a very important stretch for us,” said Mercer. “We have to come out strong and make sure we aren’t flat in the first five minutes of each game just because we’re playing on their court.”
Hoops Notes: Mercer’s strong game came on the night before his birthday. “It was a great way to start the celebration early,” Mercer said.Ingram hit his first shot just 15 seconds into the game, after being held scoreless last week against NJIT.Lekavicius appeared to suffer a lower-body injury with less than four minutes remaining. Lekavicius was slowed by an ankle injury during the preseason, but has played strong lately and checked back into the game after a short rest on the bench.