For the first time in eight months, AU men’s basketball returns to Bender Arena Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. as the Eagles take on Mount St. Mary’s and attempt to duplicate last year’s early success at home.
The Eagles (1-1), who won their first 11 games in Bender last year and 13 of 15 overall, will lean on senior point guard Daniel Munoz, senior power forward Stephen Lumpkins and junior center Tony Wroblicky in the home opener. All three have put together strong efforts early in the season and will play a huge part in AU’s success this year.
Since AU’s strength lies within its size, Lumpkins and Wroblicky are two of the focal points on offense and the ball will run through the low post – which is often Lumpkins – much of the time. On the opposite end of the court, the Eagles will have to run a zone defense, something AU head coach Jeff Jones has never relied on during his tenure.
The interior scoring presence of Lumpkins and the 2-3 matchup zone have been on full display throughout AU’s first two games of the season, particularly in its 61-55 victory over Quinnipiac (1-1) Nov. 12. Lumpkins posted a game-high 19 points on 7-9 shooting, while also recording a team-high six rebounds.
“[We] earned that win,” Jones said of the Quinnipiac victory. “It wasn’t always pretty, but we talked about competing, we talked about toughness. For us to outwork them on their home floor is huge for us.”
Munoz was also critical in the Quinnipiac contest, as he tallied 13 points, three assists and three rebounds. He also opened up opportunities for many of his teammates, especially Lumpkins.
“Lump doesn’t get close to [19 points] if Danny isn’t running the show and doing a good job,” Jones said. “Danny I thought had an outstanding game ... That’s what we’re going to need out of Danny. We’re going to rely on him.”
AU traveled to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota (2-0) in its first game of the season Nov. 9, falling to the Gophers 72-36. Lumpkins led the Eagles in both scoring and rebounding, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds. When taking on Mount St. Mary’s, one of the keys of the game will be how well AU can control the tempo, something that decided the outcome of each of the Eagles first two matchups. If AU can slow down the pace, they should be able to find success.
“[Mount St. Mary’s is] a good team, a pressing team that tries to play a very fast pace,” Jones said. “We’re going to need to control the pace similar to what we were able to [do against Quinnipiac].”