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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Eagles topple Lafayette 90-82

The AU Men's Basketball team closed the regular season by pushing its unbeaten streak to four games, sweeping a two-game Patriot League road trip to Army and Lafayette on Thursday and Saturday.

The win at Lafayette secures the second seed for the Eagles (16-12, 10-4) in next weekend's PL tournament, with Bucknell (13-14, 9-5) losing 60-57 at Colgate on Sunday afternoon.

"It's great to get another sweep on the road," AU head coach Jeff Jones said. "It's something we've done one other time this year, but I don't think we've done it before at AU."

Freshman guard Andre Ingram scored a career-high 30 points in AU's 90-82 Saturday afternoon win over Lafayette that not only secured an auspicious end to AU's regular season, but also exacted revenge for a heartbreaking 86-83 overtime loss to the Leopards in late January.

"I can't even describe the feeling," Ingram said. "I had been seeing myself due for a good game, because I'd been taking good shots and they weren't going in. My brother kept telling me, 'One game you're going to hit those shots.'"

Ingram added: "We felt we had them on their home court. To go to their place on Senior Night and win... that was huge, man."

The January loss began a mini tailspin for the Eagles, a stretch in which they lost three of five games, beating only seventh place Army and eighth place Navy, both at home. But a much-needed 65-51 win at home against Holy Cross on Feb. 20 ended that skid and sparked life into AU, which hasn't lost since and enters the PL tournament as the league's hottest team.

Conversely, Lafayette (18-9, 9-5) dominated the PL for its first 10 regular-season games, losing just once. Since then, the Leopards have lost four straight. And while losses to Lehigh, Bucknell and AU were understandable, giving Navy its first league win of the season on Thursday night, 75-71, baffled most PL experts.

Despite Saturday being Lafayette's Senior Night, AU's recent momentum, and Lafayette's lack of it, may have made the difference in the game. After some early minutes of back-and-forth action, AU seized control, scoring 14 unanswered points over a stretch of 5:41 to grab a 29-17 lead with about five minutes left in the half.

That was the first of three 12-point leads for the Eagles, their largest advantage. The last of those was a 42-30 halftime edge.

The Leopards cut the margin but never closed it, coming only as close as four points on three occasions in the second half.

Ingram's 30 points highlighted the affair, but it wasn't AU's only brilliant performance. Senior point guard Andres Rodriguez was everywhere, in a good way, scoring 15 points and dishing out 13 assists in his last regular-season game.

"When you play with Andres, all you have to do is find the open spot," Ingram said. "He's an excellent point guard. He looks to pass first, and he looks to pass second."

Rodriguez also sunk four straight free-throws in the final seconds to ice the game, an area where he failed in the teams' first meeting. Meanwhile, junior forward Raimondas Petrauskas scored 16 points in just 22 minutes, including a perfect 8-of-8 showing from the foul line. And senior Jernavis Draughn scored 11 points, despite being plagued with foul trouble for most of the game and fouling out with 3:42 left.

Despite being in a skid, Lafayette didn't play poorly, at least on offense. It shot 48 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three-point range and 76 percent from the foul line.

"It's not like they stunk the place up," Jones said. "Sometimes you get off to a good start, and then things go off-kilter."

But AU virtually matched the Leopards from the line and shot better from the floor, sinking 12 of 20 three-pointers and 54 percent of its field goals.

Jones said Lafayette's skid and the resulting parity in the PL "makes for a really exciting tournament."

For Lafayette, senior guards Justin DeBerry and Winston Davis each scored 17 points in what is likely their final game in Easton, Pa. Freshman guard Marcus Harley had 16 points, while senior forwards Mike Farrell and Rob Dill scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.

On Thursday evening, AU survived a horrific offensive first half to defeat Army 54-48 in West Point, N.Y. to sweep the season series.

The Eagles, who entered halftime trailing 22-16, stormed out on an 11-2 run to start the second period and seize a 27-24 lead. Army would tie the game once at 34, but an ensuing three-pointer and then a jump shot from Ingram pushed the lead to 39-34 with 7:14 remaining. AU led the rest of the game.

"We kind of survived Army," Jones said of the game. "We didn't play very well."

In contrast to Saturday's contest, AU shot poorly on Thursday night, hitting under 33 percent of its field goals and an anemic 20 percent of its three-pointers. AU won the game at the foul line and under the basket. The Eagles scored 22 points on 25 foul shots, compared to Army's 10 points on 11 attempts. And the Eagles out-rebounded the Black Knights 40 to 24.

Ingram again finished as AU's leading scorer with 17 points, while junior forward Matej Cresnik was the only other Eagle in double figures with 15 points.

For Army, guard Sean O'Keefe scored 15 points, and forward Josh Wilson added 14 points.

The Eagles will take on Army again Saturday at 5 p.m. in the first round of the PL tournament in Upper Marlboro, Md. The winner will play the winner of Lafayette vs. Holy Cross/Colgate the next evening at 7:30 p.m. in the semi final round. Both semifinal games will be televised on DIRECTV.

The highest remaining seed will host the championship game on Sunday, March 14 at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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