“Be aggressive!” is a chant that has inundated high school basketball games for years. However, the message might be the solution to the AU men’s basketball team’s latest problem: pressure.
After falling 65-48 to No. 15 Georgetown at the Verizon Center Dec. 22, AU head coach Jeff Jones responded candidly about the pressure that the inability to finish and score on possessions is having.
“As a competitor, you know, you can’t allow the pressure,” Jones said. “I mean you got to understand what the stakes are, and you step up and knock down the shot. That’s certainly not an excuse.”
Otto Porter poured in a game-high 16 points to lead the Hoyas (10-1) past the Eagles. AU’s Daniel Munoz paced the Eagles (4-8) with 15 points in the loss.
The Eagles have gone 2-7 in their last nine games, and an aggressive attitude could be the answer to stop the skid.
Jones is combating his team’s tentative play by giving freshman Marko Vasic more court time. Vasic has gone from not playing to earning substantial minutes largely because of his aggressive, “bull in a china shop” attitude, an attitude Jones thinks AU desperately needs.
“Whatever mistakes Marko makes, it’s out of aggressiveness,” Jones said. “And we need that [aggressiveness]. We need that desperately. You know, we can’t have guys that are timid or passive.”
The aggressiveness can bring an attacking, high-energy style that can help eliminate the hesitant play that can be the demise of most teams.
“A common response to the pressure is, you know, becoming hesitant,” Jones said. “And having Marko be just the opposite, he’s not responding to pressure. When he’s going out there, he’s going out there and attacking and having an aggressive mindset.”
AU’s Jesse Reed also showed an attitude his coach liked to see against Georgetown. Jones said Reed showed more aggressiveness against the Hoyas than he had in a month.
The freshmen duo of Vasic and Reed combined for 12 points and nine rebounds, and Jones felt their play steered the team in the right direction.
Another tough test
AU’s road doesn’t get any easier. After facing a top 20 team in Georgetown, the Eagles will next travel to Lawrence, Kan., to face the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks Dec. 29.
The two teams are headed in opposite directions, as Kansas is coming off a victory over No. 7 Ohio State and AU is on a three-game losing streak.