Men’s basketball continues strong late game execution, defeats Loyola
Eagles try to keep the momentum going
AU men’s basketball moved into second place in the Patriot League with an 81-76 win over the Loyola Greyhounds on Wednesday night inside Bender Arena.
In front of an unusually sleepy crowd, both AU (13-12, 9-5 PL) and Loyola (12-14, 4-9 PL) got off to slow starts, as AU led 15-7 nine minutes into the contest.
Loyola, which plays an extended zone defense, gave AU fits on the offensive end early on.
“It’s tough because you just never know when they’re gonna come [at you],” said AU sophomore forward Connor Nelson. “They were bumping and staying, stuff like that.”
On the other end, AU’s defense was giving Loyola fits, especially early. In the first nine minutes of play, Loyola committed eight turnovers, and missed many open shot opportunities.
After the rough start, things began to open up on the offensive end, especially for Loyola. The Greyhounds started to take better care of the ball and Loyola senior guard Andrew Kostecka began to heat up, scoring 14 of his 28 points in the first half.
“Kostecka is always a handful,” AU head coach Mike Brennan said. “There’s not much you can do to stop him.”
With that, AU went into the locker room with a 36-33 lead.
Coming out of the locker room, a different sort of game ensued. For the next 20 minutes, both teams were firing on all cylinders offensively.
The first jab in the half came from Loyola, as the Greyhounds went up 55-49 over the Eagles with 10:35 remaining.
From this point on, the Eagles buckled down and started executing on both ends to a T. AU senior point guard Sa’eed Nelson was playing in sync with his teammates, and was able to penetrate and get to the free throw line at will. Nelson finished the game with 22 points, five rebounds, four steals, and four assists, while shooting 8-9 from the free throw line.
“[I’m] just taking my time, knowing my spots to get on the court, and finishing through bigger guys,” Nelson said.
In the final 1:06 of regulation, AU finished off Loyola, as Nelson and redshirt sophomore guard Jamir Harris went 8-8 from the free throw line during this important stretch.
“I thought it was an overall good team effort,” Brennan said. “[Loyola] made a run in the second half and we sorta answered that, which I thought was crucial for our team.”
AU will be back at Bender on Wednesday night at 7 p.m to take on the Navy Midshipmen (13-11, 7-6 PL).