The AU men’s basketball team let an 11 point halftime lead slip away as they lost to St. Francis University in Pennsylvania, while the women used a strong second half to defeat Howard in the regular season openers for both teams.
Everything was going smoothly for the men’s squad as they ended the first half with a 31-20 lead. Sophomore forward Riley Grafft led the Eagles in the first half, as he scored 12 points and pulled down four rebounds.
AU’s offense as a whole was efficient in the first half. They shot just over 54 percent from the field and were perfect from the free throw line.
Their defense was even better. The Eagles limited the Red Flash to 25 percent from the field and under 20 percent from three point range.
But everything fell apart for the Eagles in the second half. St. Francis hit the AU defense for 45 points en route to their 65-61 victory. After trailing by as many as 13, a 14-4 run by the Red Flash cut the Eagles lead to three with just under 12 minutes remaining. A layup by freshman forward Will Felder gave St. Francis its second lead of the game, 44-43, with 7 minutes, 37 seconds remaining.
Just over a minute later, junior guard Nick Hendra regained the lead for AU as his 3-pointer made the score 48-47.
The Red Flash scored the next six points, but the Eagles came storming back as Stephen Lumpkins’ free throw with 2:46 remaining knotted the game at 53.
With the score tied at 57, Felder sank a clutch 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining to put St. Francis ahead for good.
AU freshman guard Daniel Munoz and Red Flash senior wing Devin Sweetney then matched each other’s two free throws before Blake Jolivette would hit a layup to pull the Eagles to within one point.
A St. Francis turnover gave AU the ball with 21 seconds remaining, but Hendra misfired on a 3-point attempt. Sweetney was fouled and hit his two free throws, but it was still a one-possession game as the Eagles trailed 64-61.
AU again turned to Hendra, but his second consecutive 3-pointer was off the mark. Freshman guard Chris Johnson made one of his two free throws to seal the 65-61 win for the Red Flash.
Grafft led AU with 14 points, while Hendra and Lumpkins both chipped in 10 in the defeat. Lumpkins grabbed eight rebounds while Munoz dished out four assists.
“There were a lot of good things that we did tonight, and I think we got better,” Men’s Head Coach Jeff Jones told AU Athletics. “As the game progressed we had a chance to win, but it came down to St. Francis making the plays.”
It was a more enjoyable night for the women’s basketball team. They used a strong, 38-25 second half to defeat Howard 71-59.
The Bison took a slim 34-33 lead into the locker room at halftime as they closed the first half on an 11-3 run. Howard did most of its damage from the free throw line, hitting 11 free throws to AU’s four. Both teams shot under 40 percent in the first half.
Halftime adjustments were key as the Eagles opened the second half with a 13-4 run to take a 46-38 lead. The Eagles would extend the lead to 17 after junior Michelle Kirk made a steal and layup for two of her 17 second half points. A subsequent layup by junior guard Ashley Yencho stretched the AU lead to 71-52. The Bison would make the final score respectable as they scored the game’s final seven points.
One half can make all the difference, as the Eagles shot 55 percent in the second half while Howard shot just 28 percent. AU also shot the ball well from deep, as they were 6-15 from three while Howard was a dismal 2-14.
Leading the Eagles was Kirk, who finished with a game-high 25 points to go along with seven rebounds, two steals and three assists. Junior forward Liz Leer connected for 18 points while corralling eight rebounds.
“It was a good team effort tonight,” said Women’s Head Coach Matt Corkery. “We made some adjustments at the half that were good for us.”
The men will next host Albany in their home opener on Monday, Nov. 16, while the women will travel to taken on Princeton the same night.