Column: Men’s basketball will steal your heart, but break it at the free throw line

Eagles lead Patriot League in turnover margin, but struggle from the stripe

Column: Men’s basketball will steal your heart, but break it at the free throw line
AU men's basketball during a game against Holy Cross on Jan.18

It is obvious that a basketball game can be decided by the turnover margin. For teams that often find themselves in close games, grabbing a few extra steals can be the difference between a win and a loss. This is great for AU’s team, who leads the Patriot League with 7.6 steals per game.

Winning the turnover battle has been a key part of AU’s success this season. The Eagles had seven steals against Holy Cross on Saturday. This led to 23 points off turnovers, which were an important part of the game, considering American won by 12 points. 

It is important to note, though, that Holy Cross is not the best at holding onto the ball, as they turned it over 16 times during Saturday’s game. They lead the Patriot League with a whopping 15.1 turnovers per game this season.

“It’s just dudes being in the right spots,” said senior guard Sa’eed Nelson post-game. “Earlier in the year, we had guys who didn’t really know where they were supposed to be on defense. Now, they realize when they’re in help defense, when they’re in the right spots, it’s easy to get steals.”

As with anything in basketball, though, there is always a downside. AU has a problem when it comes to making free throws. As a team, they are making only 67 percent of their free throws. 

Percentages aren’t a problem for everyone on the team. Junior guard Jamir Harris, for example, makes 94 percent of his free throws. While this is great, Harris does not get to the free throw line very often (2.3 FTA/G).

AU converted 72 percent of their free throws against Holy Cross, mostly thanks to center Mark Gasperini knocking down seven of his eight shots at the line. 

Making these free points is something the entire team needs to work on. Free throws, like steals, can help to decide a game. 

AU was ranked number three in the Patriot League polls before the start of this season. The team's ability to steal this season is a testament to why they were ranked so high. However, if small things like making free throws can’t be overcome, the road to a Patriot League Championship will be far more difficult.

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