Men’s basketball leads Holy Cross start to finish

Eagles take care of business, look forward to Loyola

Men’s basketball leads Holy Cross start to finish

Sa’eed Nelson (#0) in a game against Holy across on Jan. 18.

AU men’s basketball continued to build momentum Saturday afternoon inside Bender Arena, rolling over Holy Cross en route to an 81-69 victory. The win follows Wednesday’s thrilling victory over Bucknell, courtesy of some late game heroics from sophomore forward Connor Nelson.

AU (8-9, 2-4 PL) separated itself from Holy Cross (2-17, 1-5 PL) on the offensive end in the first half, shooting 63 percent from the field while tallying 43 points before the break.

“We shared the ball, got to the paint, got to the foul line … It’s a very unselfish group,” said AU head coach Mike Brennan.

Despite putting up gaudy offensive statistics and holding a 15-point lead with less than six minutes remaining in the first half, AU’s lead shrunk to seven points at halftime. Holy Cross junior guard Austin Butler carried the Crusaders, scoring eight of his 15 points in the final seven minutes of the half.

After a strong finish to the first half, the Crusaders continued to execute early in the second, cutting AU’s lead to 51-48 with 16:20 remaining.

Over the next 10 minutes, Holy Cross’ offense gave the Eagles fits. The Crusaders rode the hot hand of freshman shooting guard Joe Pridgen, who scored 16 of his game-high 28 points in the second half.

The Eagles were able to stay ahead of the Crusaders in large part due to a characteristic 21-point, five-assist performance from senior guard Sa’eed Nelson. Despite the stellar effort from Nelson, Brennan was unsatisfied with the defense his team played.

“Our defense was good in spurts … We couldn’t stop Pridgen,” Brennan said. “We’re going to have to figure out what to do with him next time we play them.”

Despite the onslaught from Pridgen and Holy Cross, AU again separated itself from the Crusaders in the final six minutes.

This time, a boisterous Bender Arena crowd of 964 people helped the Eagles play rock-solid defense down the stretch as the team secured the 12-point win.

“All these Patriot League games seem to be two, three possession games,” Brennan said. “[The atmosphere] makes a big difference.”

AU will travel to Baltimore to take on the Loyola Greyhounds at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The game can be viewed on the Patriot League Network.

“[Loyola has] veteran guys, they run their offense, they know what they’re looking for,” Brennan said. “We’ve gotta be ready for that.”

jkolodny@theeagleonlne.com

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