AU men’s basketball gets blown out by Boston University

Shorthanded Eagles lose 79-53 to the Terriers

AU men’s basketball gets blown out by Boston University

In a nationally televised matchup on the CBS Sports Network, the 4-9 American University men’s basketball team fell 79-53 to the 10-6 Boston University Terriers.

Monday’s game was the Eagles’ first action since their narrow 63-61 loss against Lehigh Jan. 1, with a squad reduced to just ten players due to COVID-19 protocols. The Eagles did not fare much better against Boston, as just nine players entered the game, and sophomore guard Colin Smalls had to play nearly the entire game, only getting to rest for a minute and 17 seconds.

Even head coach Mike Brennan was forced to miss the game due to COVID-19 protocols. In his absence, associate head coach Scott Greenman stepped up to lead the depleted squad.

“It was a unique experience to be the head coach for a game,” Greenman said. “But I thought the guys did a really good job of preparing and treating me like I was the head coach.”

Heading into the game, Boston held a 10-8 all-time record against AU, but the Eagles had won five of the previous six matchups.

Despite entering the season as Patriot League title favorites, the Terriers, led by senior Walter Whyte, entered the matchup 1-2 in conference play, while the Eagles sat at just 0-1 due to a myriad of COVID-related postponements.

The Terriers won the tip-off and came out with guns blazing, leading by as much as 28 before putting away the Eagles 79-53. Sophomore Matt Rogers scored AU’s first points, but the Eagles never led at any point during the game.

The Eagles started the first half slow offensively and had no answers for Boston’s explosive offense. Halfway through the first, AU took a timeout with just nine points on the board, and no Eagle up to that point had scored more than once. 

After the timeout, sophomore Johnny O’Neil drained a long 2 and senior Christian Sutton grabbed a tough rebound to finally give the Eagles the offensive momentum they so badly needed, and they began to stage a comeback. 

An emphatic Rogers dunk and a massive block from graduate student Marvin Bragg evidently rattled the Terriers, who allowed the Eagles to claw back into the game in the last ten minutes of the first half. 

The first half ended in a frustrating fashion, as the referees called fouls on nearly every possession, and the period crawled to an end. Aside from Rogers’ typical stellar play, the highlight of the first half for the Eagles was freshman Elijah Stephens, the reigning Geico Student-Athlete of the Week. Stephens’ explosiveness, pinpoint passing prowess and calculated crossovers consistently kept AU within ten points of an otherwise-unreachable opponent.

As the second half began, Smalls’ exciting and-one briefly extended AU’s offensive momentum, but that momentum turned out to be a mere mirage. The Eagles quickly ran out of steam and piled fouls on the Terriers, who by the end of the half led by as many as 28 points en route to a 26-point thumping.

Even losing by such a wide margin, the Eagles showed impressive grit in spite of their roster being stripped to the bone by COVID-19 protocols. Especially notable was the graduate student-freshman connection between Bragg and Stephens. 

Throughout the game, the far more experienced Bragg, who has played for AU since Stephens was just an eighth grader in Texas, could be seen giving Stephens on-court coaching and guiding him during plays and free throws.

Despite the Eagles’ blowout loss, AU proved that even in the toughest situations, this team has much to be optimistic about.

AU hits the road to Worcester, Massachusetts to face off against Holy Cross on Thursday at 7 p.m. EST in an attempt to improve their Patriot League record to 1-2.

mgacina@theeagleonline.com 

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