Harris sinks game-winner from the Loyola ‘L’ to hand Loyola L of its own in 3OT
Men’s basketball moves to 2-2 on the season after longest AU game in 20 years
Correction: This article has been updated since it was first published to correct that a commentator quote should have been attributed to Jim Chivers, not Jimmy Patsos.
Trailing 78-79 with six seconds left in triple overtime, American University junior forward Connor Nelson was visibly exhausted, waiting for the referee’s signal to attempt the final inbound pass. Commentator Jim Chivers leaned over to his partner to jokingly pose a rhetorical question: “Who do you think is getting the ball here?” Nelson inbounded the ball to senior guard Jamir Harris, who made a beeline for the Loyola half-court logo. Harris stopped on a dime at the ‘L’ of the Loyola logo and attempted an off-balance shot over a contesting Greyhound defender. Harris sank the shot, and AU men’s basketball (2-2) handed Loyola (0-4) its second straight loss 81-79.
Harris finished with a career-high 33 points in 53 minutes played, the latter of which is the most for an AU player since 1992. His nine 3-pointers — the last of which clinched the game — tied the Eagles’ single-game record.
“I can't say enough about the type of kid he is," AU head coach Mike Brennan said of Harris. “He's super-tough. He doesn't get tired. His work ethic is there and he's getting better. We knew he was an elite shooter. But he's added so much more to his game and that's allowing him to get even more shots and making him a better player.”
For a game with multiple overtime lead changes, it was just as hard-fought as it was competitive. Coming out of the locker room facing a 31-23 deficit, the Greyhounds made it clear they wouldn’t roll over. The game’s momentum noticeably changed three minutes into the second half, when Loyola junior guard Jaylin Andrews hit a fadeaway shot while drawing a foul, inciting energized shouts from the Loyola bench and bringing the game within seven points.
Andrews, who shared the same flair for dramatic, jaw-dropping plays as Harris, would go on to lead the Greyhounds in scoring with 22 points and hit another shot to give Loyola the lead with 3:20 left in regulation.
Harris responded brilliantly to Andrews’ lead-seizing shot with a 4-point play, giving the Eagles a two-point lead and breaking a five-minute AU scoring drought with two minutes to play.
Junior forward Josh Alexander, who was second on the team in scoring with 13 points, made multiple crucial shots, including a beautiful hook shot to take a two-point lead late in overtime.
“Josh is a great, great kid and a hard, hard worker,” Brennan said. “He's put in the time and effort and he keeps getting better. The way we play, everyone has to be able to contribute and be good, not just as a team player but individually, as well.”
AU’s lockdown defense throughout the game proved to be too much for a Loyola team that was missing its three highest-scoring guards from last season due to injuries. Nelson led the defensive effort with six steals and six defensive rebounds.
Free throws and 3-pointers ended up turning the tides in this game. AU shot 12-29 on 3-point attempts and 9-14 on free throws, while Loyola hit just 2-14 and 15-32 on the same shots.
The Eagles have now won two games in a row, both decided by a single possession. After the game, Brennan expressed confidence in his team's ability to perform in tight contests.
"The league is too good. When you look at the scores, it's always going to be like that,” Brennan said. “You need reps and experience in those situations. We just want to compete enough to be in the game at the end and then you go from there. You make shots, you miss shots or whatever it may be. You just want to give yourself a chance to win every time and that's what we've been doing so far."
The Eagles will now travel back home to prepare for a 2 p.m. showdown against the 5-3 Lafayette Leopards Saturday.