AU men’s basketball pulls away from Lehigh in the 2nd half
Eagles prepare for Lafayette
On Monday night, AU (10-10, 6-3 PL) got revenge for a prior defeat, coming out victorious against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (5-16, 2-7 PL) 77-56 inside Bender Arena.
After a high-scoring affair in AU’s previous contest against Lehigh, this matchup started slowly, with AU trailing 10-4 after seven and a half minutes of play.
“Both teams were sluggish early on because of the quick turnaround [from their respective Saturday games’],” said AU head coach Mike Brennan.
Although AU’s offense never ended up clicking in the first half, the team’s defense did, as the Eagles held the Mountain Hawks to just 24 points.
“[Lehigh has tough guards], and you’re not going to stop them completely,” said junior guard Stacy Beckton Jr. “The biggest thing is containing them, and that’s what we did.”
Much of AU’s defensive success throughout the game was due to the presence of redshirt senior forward Yilret Yiljep, who reeled in a career high 10 rebounds.
“[Yiljep] is a veteran, he’s been around, so he understands the importance of every possession, the importance of just energy and playing hard,” Brennan said.
With key contributions from Yiljep and other bench players, AU went into the locker room for halftime leading Lehigh 29-24.
Lehigh kept the game close at the start of the second half. But with 15 minutes left in the game, AU’s offensive game plan began to take shape.
At this point, AU’s senior point guard, Sa’eed Nelson, started to heat up, scoring at will throughout the second half. Nelson finished the night with a season-high 26 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals on 9-16 shooting.
On Sunday, Nelson’s childhood hero Kobe Bryant, and his daughter Gianna tragically passed away in a helicopter crash in Southern California. Nelson said he played Monday’s game for Bryant.
“[Bryant] was the reason I started playing basketball,” Nelson said. “My competitiveness comes from him.”
In the final nine minutes, AU extended and eventually held onto its lead thanks to the steady play of Nelson and the reserves.
AU’s next contest will come on the road against the Lafayette Leopards (12-7, 4-4 PL) this Saturday at 2 p.m. The game can be viewed on the Patriot League Network.
“[Lafayette] moves the ball, they play so well offensively,” Brennan said. “It’s gonna be a totally new challenge.”