Men’s basketball uses second half surge to defeat Howard
The Eagles have a tough road ahead
AU men’s basketball took the floor in Bender Arena and defeated Howard University 86-69 on Nov. 26. The win at home in front of 504 Thanksgiving-ready fans over the crosstown rival came 10 days after a heartbreaking 3-point loss to St. Francis (PA).
Senior point guard Sa’eed Nelson led the way for the Eagles with 25 points on 11-14 shooting. Nelson’s big night helped him move past Andre Ingram for fifth place on the AU all-time scoring list.
After AU (2-4) jumped out to a 7-1 lead to begin the game, Howard (0-9) fought back, pulling ahead 9-8 in the early going. The score stayed close for much of the first half, largely due to 19 combined first half points from Howard’s Charles Williams and Wayne Bristol Jr.
“[Howard has] a bunch of good offensive players, so they were hard to guard,” said AU head coach Mike Brennan.
With AU leading 25-20 at the 7-minute mark, the Eagles started to pull away. They headed into the locker room at halftime with a 46-34 lead, thanks to Nelson’s leadership and penetration abilities.
“[Nelson’s] always under control,” said Brennan. “He’s always picking and choosing his spots. He gets other people involved constantly. He gets to the rim. He’s been just leading the way.”
Although AU had positive momentum going into the locker room, Howard started the second half on a 10-3 run, pulling within 5 points of AU.
Despite Howard’s stick-to-itiveness, AU continued to control the game, thanks in part to the play of redshirt senior forward Yilret Yiljep and sophomore forward Marvin Bragg, both of whom were making their season debuts.
“I think when it got kind of dicey there, you needed plays,” said Brennan. “Defensively, [Yiljep] was great. He’s in tune, urgent, getting rebounds, getting stops, getting blocks, doing good stuff on offense. Marvin [also] knows what he’s doing out there.”
With the play of Yiljep and Bragg, AU was able to separate itself from Howard, finishing the victory on a 29-18 run.
In recent seasons, AU has struggled to keep leads, which is something the team was able to overcome with ease against Howard.
“We’ve given up leads,” Brennan said. “It’s [about] being consistent. It’s good that we’re able to take their best punch, and battle.”
AU will be back at Bender Arena to take on the UMBC Retrievers (5-3) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The game can be viewed on NBC Sports Washington and the Patriot League Network.