Strong guard play and gritty defense carry men's basketball win over Army

Eagles prepare for new-look Loyola

Strong guard play and gritty defense carry men's basketball win over Army
Yilret Yiljep (#12) in a game against West Point Army on February 8.

AU men’s basketball moved itself into sole possession of third place in the Patriot League with a 72-62 win over the Army Black Knights on Senior Day on Saturday afternoon inside Bender Arena.

Both AU (12-11, 8-4 PL) and Army (11-12, 6-6 PL) got off to slow starts on the offensive end. 

“We came out a little too excited, maybe because of senior day,” said AU head coach Mike Brennan.

But AU began to gain momentum as the first half progressed, in large part due to stellar guard play.

Senior guard Sa’eed Nelson and junior guards Jamir Harris and Stacy Beckton Jr. seemingly did everything for the Eagles, combining for 51 points and 27 rebounds.

“The effort and energy was definitely there [from the guards],” Brennan said.

AU’s effective guard play and rock-solid defense helped the team go into the locker room for halftime with a commanding 36-24 lead.

Coming out of the locker room for the second half, AU was firing on all cylinders, flourishing on the offensive end while shutting down Army’s dominant inside-out duo of power forward Matt Wilson and point guard Tommy Funk, as the seniors combined to shoot 9-for-28 from the field.

“[Wilson and Funk] are two tough tough guys, great competitors,” Brennan said. “They run the ball down your throat … We just made it as tough as possible [for them].”

Despite limiting Wilson and Funk, and building an 18-point lead with six minutes left to play, AU let Army back into the contest, leading by just seven points with a minute left in regulation.

In the final minute, however, Nelson and Harris went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line to seal the deal for AU. 

With the victory, AU is just one game behind Boston University, the second-place team in the Patriot League.

“It was a great team win,” Nelson said. “We’ve just gotta keep winning. If you lose one game, you fall down [in the standings].”

AU will be back at Bender on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to take on the Loyola Greyhounds (12-13, 4-8), a team which recently got back Santi Aldama, the MVP of the FIBA U-18 European Championships for Spain in 2019, from injury.

“[Loyola] is just a completely different team than the Loyola we played at their place the first time,” Brennan said. “[Aldama is] a good player, [Loyola is] a good team … they’re gonna be tough.”

jkolodny@theeagleonline.com

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