Column: Men’s basketball has its sights on No. 1 but needs some range
Stuck at the No. 2 spot, AU needs to emphasize the three to take that next step
The reigning Patriot League Champions, the Colgate University Raiders, handed AU a close loss in Bender Arena on Jan. 25. This knocked AU down to 5-3 against Patriot League opponents and 9-10 overall.
Though the loss to Colgate was disheartening, AU consistently kept the game within single digits. Against a team as good as Colgate, this is a feat in and of itself.
“They’re a good team, so you have to do a lot of things right,” said head coach Mike Brennan post-game. “When you execute defensively and offensively to 80 percent against a team like that, it isn’t good enough and you lose.”
AU entered Saturday’s contest tied with Navy for second place in the Patriot League. To the Eagles’ luck, the Navy Midshipmen lost that same night to the Army Black Knights.
The Eagles did not have to wait long to bounce back, though, overcoming a Lehigh squad they had not beaten since 2015 on Monday. Both teams started the game slowly, but AU would receive a jolt of energy off the bench from forward Yilret Yiljep. Yiljep would have a career high night, but he would just be one piece of a dominant night for AU.
Bouncing back with a performance like this shows that AU can hang tough with Colgate. Some things, however, need to be improved if they intend to finally overcome Colgate and other top Patriot League teams.
To capture the Patriot League title, the Eagles should try for more three-pointers and knock them down at a more consistent rate. The team shot just 21 percent against Colgate but improved to 41 percent against Lehigh. That improvement in the Lehigh game came with AU only shooting 12 shots from three in total. Against Colgate, however, they took 23 shots from deep.
Throughout the season, AU is averaging only 34 percent from deep. For an entire team, this isn’t great, especially when AU has some extremely good shooters across its roster. Plays need to be run to get these players open. If AU shows it is willing to take deep shots, it forces the other team to close out on our shooters. This will create space that will tremendously help the other Eagles, allowing them to more easily drive to the basket or get into a post position.
With a commitment to taking more threes, I see no reason why a Patriot League Championship won’t be waiting in their future.