Upperclassmen bail out Eagles from potential disastrous loss
Basketball analyst Austin Sternlicht explains how AU pushed past Lafayette behind the strong play of Charlie Jones
The AU men’s basketball team squeaked out a win against the last place Lafayette Leopards in a rematch of last year’s championship game, prevailing 60-59 in overtime.
Junior guard Charlie Jones came through in the clutch, hitting the game-winning free throw with two seconds left after drawing a foul on a backdoor cut from an inbound play. Earlier in the extra period with the Eagles down three, Jones hit a three-pointer with 55 seconds left to tie the game at 59.
“He’s confident, and he knows that I trust him,” head coach Mike Brennan in reference to Jones’ play said. “He knows that I know he’s doing all he can to win so whether it’s a right decision, wrong decision, good shot, bad shot, I know that he’s always thinking, I gotta do what we need on this possession.”
After Jones’s free-throw, Lafayette senior guard Zach Rufer, who hit a killer three in last years championship game, heaved a half-court shot that would have won the game at the end of overtime. The shot barely missed wide left and AU held on.
AU senior forward Marko Vasic, who helped send the game into overtime, stood out as a second hero for the Eagles on Wednesday night. Trailing by four points with under a minute left, Vasic hit a hook shot to bring the Eagles within two. After securing a defensive rebound, Vasic drew a foul on the other end and hit two clutch free throws to tie the game at 53 with 21 seconds left.
Jones and Vasic combined for five of AU’s seven overtime points, and together they totaled nine of AU’s final 11 points. The two upperclassmen also deserve credit for playing solid defense against Lafayette sophomore forward Matt Klinewski when the Eagles utilized a small lineup. AU’s big men proved to be ineffective against the Lafayette big man.. Klinewski had a game-high 18 points, but scored just one point in overtime and failed to score the final 5:28 of regulation.
For a team built for the future, it was AU’s upperclassmen who led the way in a much needed victory. Senior guard Jesse Reed led the team in scoring with 15 points and also grabbed nine rebounds playing the entire 45 minutes. Vasic added five points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Jones contributed with six points and six rebounds.
“You saw Charlie tonight doing what he did, Marko doing what he did, and Jesse’s been consistent the whole year. They’ve been terrific.” Brennan added. “Obviously the team, in a year like this, everyone can pack it in a long time ago, and they’ve done the exact opposite. And that’s why we’re battling it out, and you’re coming away with a win just on one or two plays because what you’re doing in practice.
The Eagles win (8-18, 6-9 PL) snaps a three-game losing streak and puts them in eighth place. With three regular season games remaining, AU is one game back of sixth place Army and two games back of fifth place Colgate. The bottom four seeds have a play-in game for the Patriot League tournament. Wednesday’s win helps put AU on the right path for a top six seed. Had AU lost to Lafayette, a bottom four seed would be all but certain.
The Eagles travel to Worcester, Mass. for a showdown with Holy Cross on Saturday. The next home game is Wednesday Feb. 24 against Navy.