In home opener, AU men’s basketball starts hot, falters late

The Eagles remain winless through two games

In home opener, AU men’s basketball starts hot, falters late

Junior guard Sa'eed Nelson goes in for a layup during a Feb. 2 game against Holy Cross.

In its first home game of the season, the AU men’s basketball team came out of the locker room looking invincible. The team sprinted out to a 16-point lead early in the first half, but wasn’t able to maintain it. The Eagles suffered its second straight loss, this one to the William & Mary Tribe, 79-70 on Friday night in Bender Arena.

Senior point guard Sa’eed Nelson and redshirt sophomore combo guard Jamir Harris led the way for AU, scoring 22 and 16 points, respectively.

Despite the Tribe’s combination of 7-foot Wisconsin transfer Andy Van Vliet and 6-foot-10 Mid-Major All-American Nathan Knight, AU (0-2) started four guards, none of whom are taller than 6-foot-4.

“We don’t have any other big people,” said AU coach Mike Brennan. “Those [four] are our best players.”

AU’s guards came out playing aggressively, marching the Eagles to an early 26-10 lead, while shooting five of eight from beyond the 3-point arc.

Given the size of William & Mary, it was important to Brennan to have his team come out firing.

“We were gonna move, get them moving, score from the perimeter [and] put some pressure on them, which we did early on,” Brennan said.

After building up a 16-point lead, things went downhill for the Eagles. AU started missing 3-point attempts, and William & Mary ended the first half on a 26-12 run to pull within two points of the Eagles at the half.

The negative momentum AU had going into the locker room stayed prevalent in the second half. William & Mary went on a 13-2 run early in the second half to extend the team’s lead to seven points. Despite many spurts, AU could not take over the lead for an extended period of time.

Many of AU’s issues in the second half had to do with William & Mary’s big men Knight and Van Vliet, both of whom dominated AU senior center Mark Gasperini. The duo finished the game with a combined 40 points and 20 rebounds.

“It’s a tough matchup,” Brennan said. “That frontcourt is a handful.”

In addition to Nelson and Harris’ impactful performances, sophomore shooting guard Jacob Boonyasith scored 11 points for the Eagles, while sophomore small forward Connor Nelson added eight.

Moving forward, Brennan feels that his team needs to work on its consistency.

“We can execute up to a certain point, but we’ve got to get to a point where we can sustain it for the whole game,” Brennan said.

Next up, AU will travel to Foggy Bottom to take on crosstown rival George Washington on Tuesday at 7 p.m. 

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