Takeaways from AU’s big win at Holy Cross
The AU men’s basketball team picked up its second straight win against Holy Cross Sunday afternoon, defeating the Crusaders 71-70. Now 7-9 in conference play, the Eagles have assured they will at least host a play-in game for the conference tournament in March. Here are some major takeaways from AU’s win.
Delante Jones comes through in overtime
After Wednesday’s win against Lafayette where the upperclassmen made the big plays down the stretch, it was freshman Delante Jones who returned the favor on Sunday. Senior Jesse Reed, who led the team in scoring with 18 points, fouled out at the end of regulation. Fellow senior Marko Vasic, who had 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, fouled out 40 seconds into overtime. Without the team's two leaders, Jones stepped up in the extra period to lead the Eagles to victory. Jones scored or assisted on ten of the Eagles 12 overtime points. However, the freshman nearly blew the game by turning the ball over 18 seconds and allowing Holy Cross to notch a layup as the clocked ticked down. With 16 seconds left, the Eagles trailed by one, but Jones recovered. With two seconds left, he sank the game-winning layup, taking control of the game and bringing excitement to the future of AU basketball.
The referees called this game incredibly tight, blowing the whistle on almost any contact. As a result, a ridiculous 55 fouls were called during the game. Thirty went against the Eagles while 25 were called against the Crusaders. In addition to Reed and Vasic, freshman Andrija Matic also fouled out. In addition, Jones, freshman James Washington and junior Jalen Rhea were each one foul away from disqualification. Only one Crusader, senior Cullen Hamilton reached five fouls. Consequently, the two teams combined to shoot 75 free throws. The Eagles went 25-34 (73.5 %) while the Crusaders shot 26-41 (63.4 %). Foul shooting ultimately played a major role in this game as the Eagles’ success from the line helped propel the team to another win.
Another ugly first half
What will be lost in this game is how bad of a first half was played by both teams. The Eagles went into halftime up 20-19 but shot just 3-16 from the field with eight turnovers. Holy Cross was no better shooting 6-26 and six turnovers, while also going 6-13 at the foul line. Both times AU has matched up with Holy Cross, the first halves have been brutal. When these two teams last met on February 1, the score was 16-15 AU at halftime. Both teams run the low-scoring Princeton offense, which means points are at a premium when they match up against each other. Luckily for the fans, both teams were able to pick up the scoring and play a hard-fought competitive game.
Head Coach Mike Brennan is now 7-0 against Holy Cross in his three years on the job. The last time the AU lost to the Crusaders was January 19th 2013. Depending on how the standings end up, AU could end up playing Holy Cross one more time in an 8-9 matchup. The Eagles hold the tiebreaker over the Crusaders by virtue of their regular season sweep, meaning the game would be played in Bender Arena. Holy Cross hasn’t won in Bender Arena since January 26, 2008.
What lies ahead
With two games left, the Eagles are currently in eighth place in the Patriot League. If the Eagles win their final two games against fifth-place Navy and seventh place Loyola, they will finish 9-9 in the Patriot League. Since winning implies beating Loyola, the Eagles would jump to seventh place. However, if sixth-place Army loses its final two games against Boston and Lehigh, two of the top teams in the league, they would drop to 8-10, meaning the Eagles would jump over Army as well. Going further, if Navy loses to AU and first-place Bucknell, both AU and Navy would be 9-9. But since AU would sweep the series in the hypothetical scenario, AU would jump all the way to fifth. Believe it or not, the Eagles could finish as high as fourth, but that would require all the previous scenarios to happen plus Colgate losing its last two games to Lehigh and Lafayette. Essentially, this has been a wild season, and despite AU’s early struggles, there is still a chance the Eagles can finish with a top four seed. The team can finish no worse than where they are now.