Strong first half boosts AU men’s basketball to victory against St. Francis
Explosive 33-point performance from Sam Iorio helped Eagles earn double-digit win
The Eagles were in the zone Tuesday night, beating St. Francis (3-5) 95-82. Coming off of a loss to Wagner the game before, AU (5-2) looked much stronger on the offensive end.
“Sam [Iorio] got us off to a great start, making most of his shots,” said head coach Mike Brennan. “We worked on our offense really hard for the last two days, showed up, shared the ball well and got a lot of good looks.”
The team led by 20 going into the second half of the game after a huge first half for Iorio. The sophomore forward scored 24 points in the first half alone, missing only one shot. Iorio finished the game with 33 points on 12-15 shooting and 7-10 from the three-point line. His catch-and-shoot play on the three-point line was unstoppable, and when he wasn’t able to get the looks he wanted, he was able to move the ball to his open teammates.
“I wasn’t the only one who scored tonight,” Iorio said. “We had a lot of guys who scored double digits. We have a very talented team this year and it could be anyone on any given day. Tonight, Sa’eed [Nelson] did a great job finding me the ball.”
Nelson played a tremendous game as well, controlling both ends of the court. The junior guard finished the game with 17 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and two steals. His passing set Iorio up for many of his three pointers.
“Sa’eed was awesome just throwing the ball all over the place in a good way, getting everybody wide open looks, which is hard since he’s got to be super aggressive and share the ball,” Brennan said. “It’s amazing what we’re asking the kid to do and he’s doing it on both ends.”
Junior center Mark Gasperini finished with 14 points on 6-11 shooting. His presence in the paint led to him to scoop up four rebounds and earn a block and a steal. However, it was his playmaking during the game that really made him stand out. Gasperini finished with seven assists, throwing multiple dimes out to Iorio both outside the three-point arc and in the paint.
Senior guard Larry Motuzis finished with three blocks and a steal, in addition to his 15 points. Sophomore guard Stacy Beckton Jr. came off the bench and locked the other team down defensively, finishing with two blocks and three steals.
“It’s really hard to get stops against any team we play, especially against a team like that,” Brennan said. “Last year we wouldn’t have been able to withstand that. So now we just have more bodies, more people to get in there and contribute in different ways.”
After leading by 20 in the first half, the Eagles came out into the second half a little slower. St. Francis outscored them 15-8 in the first five minutes of the half and slowly got the deficit back into single digits. However, AU was able to finish strong and close them out.
“I’m happy for our guys,” Brennan said. “They never stop working and doing what we’re asking. Now that they’re seeing results, it gives them confidence.”
The Eagles will play again on Friday at Howard, and they will have their next home game on Dec. 18 against Mount St. Mary’s.