Men skid to 5-2 in PL
AU Men's Basketball got an explosive offensive output from an unlikely source during this weekend's home stand: second-year junior forward Raimondas Petrauskas.
The Lithuanian forward, who averaged only 6.3 points per game before the games, scored a career-high 24 points in a 60-46 win over Army Sunday to surpass his previous mark of 16 points tallied in an 86-83 overtime loss Friday to Lafayette (16-4, 7-0 Patriot League) that kept the Eagles (11-10, 5-2) out of first place. The production was just the result of the effort he puts out every game, AU head coach Jeff Jones said.
"He's going to work hard all the time," Jones said. "That's his personality. He's an example that when you work hard and have toughness, good things will happen."
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Petrauskas efforts were only good enough for one win.
They had PL-leading Lafayette in a corner for all but the last five minutes of regulation. They led by as many as 13 points and kept Lafayette's skilled backcourt of Winston Davis and Justin DeBerry to only 18 points. But those five minutes, and five more minutes of overtime, were all that were needed for everything to go right for the Leopards and wrong for the Eagles.
Davis scored eight of his 15 points in the extra period, and AU went 4-of-10 from the free-throw line in the last 5:13 of the game to hand the win to the Leopards, who are off to their best PL start in four years.
The Eagles followed up the loss by using at 18-0 first-half run to beat Army (5-14, 2-5) Sunday. The win wasn't one to be proud of - the teams combined for 40 turnovers and 42 fouls while both shooting below 40 percent - but Jones said he'd take it. He called it a "must win" coming after the unfortunate loss to Lafayette, which came down to a few mistakes that could have been avoided.
"It should have never come to the free throws," Jones said. "Our guys are going to have to live with those mental errors that occurred in the last five minutes of the game. We had a number of opportunities to stretch our lead so that it wouldn't come down to a couple free throws. We had defensive breakdowns and wasted opportunities."
The AU defense collapsed at a critical moment in regulation. Lafayette came out of a timeout with 5.9 seconds left to inbound the ball to PL-leading scorer DeBerry. DeBerry drew a double team at the top of the key, leaving Rob Dill wide open in the post for a two-handed jam with 1.5 seconds remaining to ensure overtime. The Eagles had no answer for the 6-foot-10 Dill, who scored all of his 15 points after the first half.
The Eagles' offensive opportunities in the last 4:22 of regulation were plentiful. They had three steals and six field goal attempts, but missed each one, including a dunk by junior guard Jason Thomas that would have put the Eagles up by six with 2:28 remaining. Their only points in the stretch came from a pair of free throws by Petrauskas, whose 16-of-21 shooting from the line this weekend was a contrast to the team's woes at the line.
The Eagles shot 58.6 percent from the line against Lafayette, slightly under par for the league's second-worst free throw shooting team in PL games.
Senior guard Andres Rodriguez, who played 39 minutes despite suffering an injury to his left ankle that afternoon, had two untimely misses at the end of regulation. With the Eagles leading 75-71 and 12.4 seconds remaining in regulation, his one-and-one attempt rimmed out. On the rebound, AU's Thomas fouled Lafayette's Mike Farrell, who made both free throws. That closed the gap to two points, but Rodriguez repeated his performance at the line after the next Lafayette foul.
Rodriguez, whose usually flashy play was reduced to a hobble by the end of the game due to the injury, said the ankle problem affected his ball handling, but wasn't an excuse for missing free throws. He played only 20 minutes Sunday, and Jones said he would rest until practice Wednesday or Thursday. He will be needed in top shape in the final stretch of the season.
"We rely more on Andres Rodriguez on offense and defense more than any other team in the league depends on one player," Jones said. "We need him out there"