The struggles continued for the AU men’s basketball team over the Thanksgiving break, as they lost all three games to the Fairfield University Stags, the University of Manhattan Jaspers and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks.
As has been the case in most games this season, the Eagles played a solid first half against Fairfield. They led the Stags 29-27 at the half as they hoped to notch their first victory.
AU kept within striking distance, as Fairfield led only by three with 9:57 left in the second half. However, Fairfield would use a 15-4 run to take control of the game, capped by a three-pointer from guard Lyndon Jordan.
The key second half run pushed the Fairfield lead to 60-46 with five minutes remaining, and the Eagles were never able to recover as they lost 72-56. The Eagles turned the ball over 20 times in the contest, allowing the Stags to pick up 15 steals. Fairfield also sliced through AU’s defense, shooting 63 percent from the field during the second half.
Stephen Lumpkins and Nick Hendra led the team in both points and rebounds in the loss. Lumpkins, a sophomore forward, chipped in 14 points and nine rebounds, while Hendra, a junior guard, registered 14 points
and seven rebounds.
Fairfield improved to 3-1 as four different players scored in double figures. Forward Yorel Hawkins led the Stags attack with 18 points on 8-11 shooting, while guard Derek Needham had 13 points, seven assists and four steals.
On Friday, Nov. 25, the Eagles welcomed Manhattan to Bender Arena. They found themselves down quickly, as the Jaspers raced to a 14-1 lead just five minutes into the game. AU was trailing 21-13 with five minutes left in the first half when a 16-6 Eagles run gave them a 29-27 lead heading into the locker room.
The second half started just as the first half did, with Manhattan coming out strong. The Jaspers opened the half with a 13-3 run to take a 40-32 lead that they would never relinquish.
Two free throws by AU sophomore forward Riley Grafft cut the Manhattan lead to 56-52 with 4:12 remaining, but the Eagles would never get closer. A jumper by Manhattan guard Darryl Crawford extended his team’s lead to 61-54 with under two minutes remaining, as the Jaspers would improve to 3-2 on the year with the 69-62 victory.
AU again had trouble protecting the ball, as they tallied 23 turnovers, compared to just six by the Jaspers. In the loss, freshman Mike Bersch sank four three-pointers and led the team with 16 points. Grafft, the only other scorer in double figures, totaled a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The Eagles had no answer for Crawford, as he poured in a game-high 26 points for Manhattan. Guards Rico Pickett and Antoine Pearson had 13 and 12 points for the Jaspers, respectively.
AU was looking for their first win in seven tries as they wrapped up the break with a Nov. 28 road game against the also winless UMES Hawks. The Hawks would keep the Eagles winless and notch their first victory in the process as they defeated AU 65-58.
With the score tied 21-21 with 1:56 remaining before halftime, the Hawks closed the half on a 11-4 run to take a 32-25 lead. Two UMES three-pointers spurred the run, including a buzzer-beater by guard Kevin White.
Two ties marked a tight second half, as the Eagles fought their way back. A free throw by Hendra tied the game at 49-49 with 5:29 left to play, but the Eagles were never able to grab the lead. Down 61-58 with one minute remaining, AU had a chance to tie, but Daniel Munoz’s three-pointer was off the mark. A missed three-pointer by Grafft with the Eagles down four as time was winding down killed any chance of a comeback, as UMES came out on top.
Lumpkins totaled 15 points and nine rebounds in the loss, while Hendra added 11 and sophomore Simon McCormack had 10. Forward Neal Pitts and guard Tim Burns, who each had 16 points, led the Hawks.
Three losses over the Thanksgiving break dropped AU’s record to 0-7 before a Dec. 1 victory over Howard University gave the Eagles their first win. Turnovers have been the teams Achilles heel, as they are averaging just over 16 a game.