American University 68, Radford University 58: Eagles hang on for biggest win of the season
AU beat Radford to move to 5-2 on the season
The American University women’s basketball team — now 5-2 on the season — took down the Radford Highlanders in Bender Arena 68-58 in their game Sunday.
Senior Jade Edwards tailed 10 points and 3 assists while senior Emily Fisher had a team-high 16 points.
Radford showed pressure man-to-man defense in the half-court out of the gate and picked up full-court on made baskets. On the other end, AU head coach Megan Gebbia had her team come out in the same pressure man-to-man alteration as she did in the UMBC game.
AU handled the full court press, but struggled running its offense once it got the ball into halfcourt. With Radford’s athletes and aggressive defense, AU started 5-15 from the floor with three turnovers, trailing 18-11 by the end of the first quarter.
Eventually, Fisher found an opening on offense and converted a three point play to cut the Radford lead to 18-14. Then AU sophomore Ivy Bales made a layup to make it 18-16. That’s as close as Radford got in the first half, as AU went on a 8-0 run to lead 21-18.
Radford sophomore Ashley Tudor ended the AU run with a pump-fake and layup off of one dribble. Bales answered for AU and on the next play, Radford senior Bridget Birkhead bailed her team out with the shot-clock winding down as her deep bomb made it 23-23. AU sophomore Riley DeRubbo found some extended minutes in the first half and did some good things handling the pressure and setting up the offense. She dished out two assists and had zero turnovers with a plus/minus of plus five.
Both teams traded buckets down the final stretch of the first half. Edwards scored on AU’s final offensive possession. AU went into the half with a 32-27 lead. AU shot 46.7 percent from the floor 23.1 percent from deep while the Highlanders shot 39.2 percent and 33.3 percent from three.
Out of the break, Radford senior Bryonna McClean connected on a two for Radford to start the scoring. However, AU sophomore Karla Vreš answered with her second triple. After a defensive rebound by senior Taylor Brown, Doring found her on the roll after a screen. She laid it in to extend AU’s lead to six.
Fisher then made two free throws to push AU’s lead back to four with just under five minutes left in the quarter. Birkhead scored for Radford. Then, with Radford lulled into taking shots from outside, AU went on a 8-0 run that turned the game around. Fisher made a layup, then Edwards was fouled on a fast break and made a pair. A Kayla Henning drive and righty finish made it 53-41 AU.
AU never trailed the rest of the way. Radford fought back, but Brown scored on back to back buckets in the paint to make it 60-51. The Highlanders were too content to take perimeter shots and they missed them.
Radford senior Jackie Christ made her layup, but Edwards answered right back with a big layup to give AU a 62-54 lead with 2:38 remaining in the game.
After both teams turned it over with under one minute left, Doring was fouled and went to the line and made both, putting AU up ten. AU tried to foul with 47 second left, but Radford turned the ball over twice on the final two possessions. AU held on for its biggest win of the season, snapping the Highlanders’ 3-game win streak.
Must develop more discipline on offense
AU failed to show the defensive grit needed against an always tough matchup against the Highlanders. The Eagles started the 10 minutes of the game shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 14 percent from three while only scoring 11 points, but their problems didn’t stop there. They also surrendered seven turnovers in the first half that turned into nine fastbreak points for the Highlanders, which only made it harder for AU to score their way back into this game.
AU’s offensive discipline in the second half showed how dominant can be when firing on all cylinders. In the first five minutes of the half, the Eagles gave up one turnover and shot an efficient 4-5 from the field to take a 41-39 lead after being down 11-18 at the end of the first quarter.
“It wasn’t a great start,” Gebbia said. “Then we got ourselves together and went to the bench who got us in the lead. We really turned it on in the second half and got a lot more comfortable.”
Offensive rebounding could be a major key for AU’s success
The Eagles had a vast improvement in offensive rebounding. They grabbed 8 offensive boards that translated into 7-second chance scoring opportunities, with the most important being Bailey Garbee’s layup to give AU an 8-point lead with less than ten minutes to play.
AU has struggled this year with offensive rebounding this season, ranking last in the Patriot League.
Sunday’s game showed the Eagles could be effective in second-chance scoring opportunities off of offensive rebounds. This should be something Gebbia looks to hone in on with this year’s team.
“You need momentum changers and offensive rebounds,” Gebbia said postgame. “And we got offensive rebounds tonight, I’ve been waiting for this and I hope it doesn’t go away.”
Syracuse travels to Charlottesville on Tuesday to take on the University of Virginia. That game tips off at 7 p.m. ET from John Paul Jones arena and airs on ESPN+.