Mens' basketball falls to 2-1 in Patriot League

The Men's Basketball team finished Saturday's Patriot League clash against visiting Lehigh on an offensive stretch colder than the frigid air bearing down on D.C.

With at least a tie for the PL lead on the line, the Eagles did not make a field goal for the last 10:34 of the game, including one overtime session. Lehigh wasn't much warmer to close out regulation, but found its shooting touch in overtime to send the Eagles to a 63-58 defeat. Lehigh secured itself a tie for the top spot in the league with Lafayette at 3-0 (10-6 overall), while AU dropped to a game behind at 2-1 in the PL (8-9 overall).

"They're more prepared to challenge for the Patriot League title than we are," AU head coach Jeff Jones said after the game. "The difference between them and us today is that they were nastier. They didn't care who got the job done, and who looked good. They just got it done."

That nastiness was needed in a game that lacked flow and rhythm. AU struggled from the perimeter throughout, shooting 3-for-16 from three-point range. The Eagles stayed in the game through senior forward Jernavis Draughn, who led AU with 17 points, most coming on the interior. Freshman guard Andre Ingram finished with 13 points, including all of AU's three-pointers, while junior forward Raimondas Petrauskas added 11 points.

While effective through most of the game, AU's inside attack fizzled late when Lehigh started double- and triple-teaming Draughn and others down low. And with AU's perimeter game already struggling, it was all the Eagles could do defensively and at the foul line to send the game into overtime tied at 53.

"It wasn't just [one player]," Draughn said of Lehigh's late game defensive effort. "It was a team effort. I should have passed the ball out a couple times and set more screens for guys down low. They were just collapsing on us."

As Jones inferred, it was the willingness of Lehigh to do the dirty work that pushed the game into overtime. But it was the visible performance of Lehigh's backcourt duo of Austen Rowland and Jose Olivero, both metro-area high school products that made the difference in the extra session.

Rowland, the game's leading scorer with 20 points, hit an NBA-range three-pointer 24 seconds into the extra session, and then nailed a pull-up jumper a minute and a half later to open a 58-53 Lehigh lead with three minutes to play. It was a measure of revenge for Rowland, who was booed soundly through much of the game after picking up a technical in a skirmish with AU junior guard Jason Thomas.

"I don't know what the fans think, but when people boo you, it motivates you," Rowland said. "It was big to get out to that early lead. We knew we could get pullups all day out there. I was just feeling it, so I pulled up."

AU should have tied the game after Draughn and Junior forward Matej Cresnik each made two free throws to pull the score back to 59-57. Ingram made a steal and broke into transition. Ingram made the right play, passing the ball to Draughn underneath the basket, but Draughn bobbled the pass and missed the layup opportunity. AU retained possession, only to miss a much more difficult shot seconds later.

"It was just concentration," Draughn said afterward. "I wasn't looking at the ball, and also I was moving toward the basket before the ball got there."

On the next possession, it was Olivero's turn to nail a clutch shot, a pullup jumper coming with 1:06 left, which capped his 13-point day and pushed the lead to 61-57.

Draughn went to the foul line nine seconds later and made one of two foul shots. AU held Lehigh on its next possession, and thus had one final look to tie, but Ingram's three-point attempt missed from the left elbow with 13 seconds left. AU was forced to foul, and two free throws later Lehigh had secured the victory.

The road only gets more difficult for AU, which goes first to Colgate and then to Holy Cross this Friday and Sunday. Meanwhile, Lehigh goes to Lafayette into battle for sole possession of first place on Friday night.

Elsewhere in the PL, Army (4-11, 1-2) won its first PL basketball contest since winter 2002, beating Colgate (8-7, 1-2 PL) 60-51 at West Point on Sunday. Meanwhile, Lafayette (12-4, 3-0) sent Holy Cross (7-9, 1-2) to their second straight defeat in a 60-58 overtime affair in Worcester, Mass., and Bucknell (4-11, 1-2) stomped Navy (3-13, 0-3) in an 87-46 blowout in central Pennsylvania.

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