Column: AU’s new starting lineup has given them an edge, but more could be done

Nelson’s addition has had tremendous results, but Yiljep should continue to get big minutes

Column: AU’s new starting lineup has given them an edge, but more could be done
Yilret Yiljep (#12) in a game against Army on Feb. 8.

In its last few games, AU men’s basketball has been using an altered starting five. This new lineup sees sophomore forward Connor Nelson starting in place of sophomore guard Jacob Boonyasith.

This has led to some excellent results for the team as a whole. Connor Nelson has been amazing both on the offensive and defensive end for the team, even before he became the starter. In his first start against the Army Black Knights, Nelson drained five threes, swiped three steals and finished the game with 17 points.

In the following game against Loyola, Nelson did more of the same, helping AU win the close game. He finished the game with 13 points, nine of which were from threes, and swiped another three steals. 

The addition of Connor Nelson as a starter has not been the only recent change to AU’s lineup as of late. Under the new rotation, both freshman guard Ben Lubarsky and graduate forward Yilret Yiljep have gotten more playing time. 

While Yiljep and Lubarsky don’t show up on the scoring sheet the same way that Nelson does, they both give the team a reliable presence off the bench. Yiljep, in particular, has provided  major help to the team this season with his consistent play.

Against Loyola, Yiljep helped close out the game. Yiljep registered 20 total minutes and played the entirety of the game’s last five minutes. He was instrumental in holding the lead, notching a crucial block with two minutes left.

“He’s great,” head coach Mike Brennan said after the Feb. 12 game against Loyola. “If being where you’re supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to do was a stat, he’d be perfect. He gives so much energy.”

With how consistent Yiljep has been throughout the season in helping the team secure big wins, there is no reason why he should not continue to get more minutes. At the very least, Yiljep’s current production at around 17 minutes per game appears to be working. Either way, AU is on the right track to make a deep Patriot League tournament run.

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