Eagles flock together to win home opener
Men's basketball boxes out William & Mary to win close game
American University fans cheered on the men’s basketball team (1-2) at their Wednesday night home opener in Bender Arena against the College of William & Mary (1-3).
The game opened with a small run from American, but the prospect of a stable lead for either team did not last long. The Eagles and the Tribe battled back and forth for a spark of momentum, with the lead changing 13 times throughout the game.
AU attacked William & Mary from the arc, shooting 62.5 percent from the 3-point line in the first half. Junior Johnny O’Neil kept AU in contention in the first half with three 3-pointers of his own.
“It’s consistency that you get from a guy that’s been around, but now it’s like we’re getting more of him,” head coach Mike Brennan said.
The Tribe did not roll over and instead went on an 11-point run, successfully claiming the lead. The two teams once again exchanged leads seven times in the last six minutes of the half, until freshman Jermaine Ballisager Webb hit a swift jumper, putting AU up one at halftime.
American was able to utilize their Princeton offense to backdoor, screen and cut their way to 32 points in the paint against William & Mary. Junior Matt Rogers took advantage of this, scoring eight of his 12 points in the Tribe’s paint.
The small lead the Eagles had was once again surmounted by the Tribe, and the two teams traded leads another five times. The Eagles finally found the momentum they needed to slightly pull ahead after two trips to the line for Rogers and a block by O’Neil, one of five he swatted on the night.
AU found themselves with a 5-point lead late enough to push the Tribe to foul. The Eagles were able to hold off William & Mary with eight consecutive free throws from O’Neil and sophomore Elijah Stephens.
AU took down William & Mary 71-64, making it the Eagles’ third-straight home opener win.
AU had a balanced attack on the night, with all of the starting five recording double figures. O’Neil led the team with 17 points and five blocks, Stephens added 14 and six assists, Rogers contributed 12 and freshman Geoff Sprouse and graduate student Jaxon Knotek both scored 10.
“We made sure to pass the ball instead of going one-on-one,” O’Neil said.
The Eagles will next hit the road on Saturday, Nov. 19, to face New Jersey Institute of Technology in a non-conference game.