Column: Cats in the cradle
Defensive-minded Eagles dominate unprepared Wildcats on route to 68-44 win
There’s a moment all of us face at some point in our academic careers. We spend hours grinding on one assignment after the other, staying up late studying for the exam and getting to class early to take the test.
But then, as you scan the first half of the test, and you realize it's too late. You studied for the wrong exam.
That’s exactly what happened on Friday night in AU men’s basketball’s matchup against the University of New Hampshire, who was completely unprepared to deal with the Eagles’ strong defense. While AU grabbed a convincing 68-44 W, the Wildcats struggled, scoring only twice more than they turned it over (17-15).
UNH looked completely unprepared on both sides of the ball, looking to outmuscle and outrun the methodical Eagles. The more the ‘Cats looked to push the pace, the more they ended up shooting themselves in the foot. AU’s ability to capitalize on these mistakes and create turnovers helped seal the game.
Head coach Mike Brennan elaborated on his team's ability to control the game during a post-game interview.
“UNH did play physical, but I think our guys matched it,” Brennan said. “Obviously having [Yilret Yiljep, or “YY”] and [Mark Gasperini] and some big bodies out there, that helped.”
For the Eagles, this was more than just a win in front of the home crowd. After going 6-24 last year, it appears AU may have finally found its identity.
This year, everything starts on the defensive side of the floor, led by the electric duo of sophomore guard Stacy Beckner Jr. and YY. Beckner and YY aren’t exactly the “pointing spiderman meme” of each other on defense, but YY’s interior presence and switchability combined with Beckner's athleticism and help-side defense should be a real asset moving forward for the team.
If opposing teams are Megabytes, YY is the wonk rat, ready to shut down the whole operation. Beckner is on his way there. While AU still has some more work to do protecting the rim against larger teams, it proved tonight that its aggressive play can lead to easy transition buckets, so long as the team stays healthy.
Last year, AU wasn’t particularly good on either side of the floor. If it were to pick an identity, it would have been Sa’eed Nelson vs. the world. That’s fine, but it gives other teams the ability to only study one player. This year, AU can do more, and the junior guard knows it.
“It opens everything up,” Nelson said. “It opens up opportunities for me, and it tells the other team that they can’t just stop me and expect to stop our whole offense. We got guys that can score and contribute. I think we opened a lot of eyes tonight.”
Spencer Nusbaum is a freshman in the School of Communications and a sports columnist for The Eagle.