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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
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Eagles buzz past Black Knights

A buzzer beater from Johnny O’Neil secures win over Army

The American University men’s basketball team (13-7) faced off against the Army West Point Black Knights (11-11) on military appreciation night at Bender Arena.

The Eagles were coming off of a four-game losing streak, including their first matchup against Army on Jan. 11. American was playing for redemption and revenge.

“We’ve been through a rough patch, but we’re trying to focus on what is ahead of us,” said junior forward Johnny O’Neil.

Despite the Black Knights winning the tip, the Eagles started off the game with a 3-point basket from junior forward Matt Rogers. American wasn’t able to keep the momentum for long, and Army answered back with a 7-point run of their own.

The Black Knights continued to push the lead, at one point holding a 9-point advantage over the Eagles. A 3-pointer from graduate student forward Connor Nelson and a layup from Rogers brought the Eagles within 4 points of Army.  

Army kept pushing ahead, with the two teams exchanging baskets without a significant lead change until two free throws from junior guard Colin Smalls finished the half 34-29.

The Black Knights showed no signs of stopping in the second half, growing their lead to 10 points in the first six minutes of the half. However, a layup from sophomore guard Elijah Stephens had the Eagles clawing their way back into the game.

The energy and excitement after each basket in Bender had AU fans married to the idea of a comeback. A jumper from Stephens had the Eagles down by only 4 with 10 minutes left in the game. 

Back-to-back baskets from senior guard Jaxon Knotek and Stephens put the Eagles within 2. A trip to the line and two free throw attempts from Nelson tied the game 51-51.

Nelson then put the Eagles in the lead with an impressive 3-point basket, and O’Neil stretched the lead out by 5 with a layup.

Army fought back with a 3-point basket of their own, and then tied the score at 61-61 with only 26 seconds left on the clock.

Looking to succeed on their last scoring opportunity, the Eagles threw the ball to O’Neil, putting in a layup at the buzzer and securing a 2-point win over the Black Knights.

“We battled back and stuck with it,” head coach Mike Brennan said.

Smalls led the team with 14 points, Rogers closely followed with 13 points and 8 rebounds, Nelson contributed 8 points, and O’Neil added 8 points and 6 rebounds.

The Eagles next look to protect their winning streak and take on Bucknell at Bender Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings and Nina Heller. Copy Editing  by Isabelle Kravis, Natasha LaChac, Sophia Rocha, and Sophie Myers

dhoke@theeagleonline.com


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