Eagles hand Raiders their first Patriot League loss
AU ends nation’s longest conference winning streak
The American University men’s basketball team (15-8) had its biggest upset victory since their win against Georgetown this Saturday evening in Bender Arena. The Eagles took on the Colgate Raiders (17-8), who held the nation’s longest conference winning streak of 27 games and were undefeated in the Patriot League.
American was coming off a close loss from the last-ranked team in the Patriot League, the Bucknell Bison. AU had previously lost to Colgate last month by a single point and were looking for redemption in their second matchup.
The first half started with neither team able to make the first basket of the game until junior forward Matt Rogers put in a 3-pointer from beyond the arc. Colgate answered with a 3-point basket of their own.
The two teams continued to trade baskets from the 3-point line. Junior forward Johnny O’Neil and sophomore guard Elijah Stephens both added a 3 to the score for the Eagles, while the Raiders matched them, bringing the score to 9-9.
American did a good job defensively at keeping Colgate out of the paint, causing the Raiders to turn the ball over four times in the first four minutes. Despite this, Colgate was also defensively strong, causing AU to turn the ball over six times in the first five minutes.
“Defense is our main goal,” Rogers said. “The offense will come. We know we can score.”
A steal and a fastbreak spin move layup from junior guard Lorenzo Donadio tied the Eagles and Raiders up 11-11.
Colgate responded with a 6-point run, taking the first lead of the game. A 3-pointer from freshman guard Geoff Sprouse cut the lead to 3. The Raiders continued to push their lead out, growing it up to 11 at one point.
The Eagles continued to fight back, led by junior guard Colin Smalls, who contributed 7 points in the last three minutes, including a fast break dunk, a 3-point basket and a jumper that cut Colgate’s lead to only 4 at the half, 35-31.
Colgate started the second half out strong, scoring their next 8 points in the paint. The Raiders outscored the Eagles 17-6 in the first nine minutes of the game, with the only points for American coming from Stephens in the paint.
Despite the cold shooting from AU, freshman center Jermaine Ballisager Webb threw down a dunk that started an 18-0 run for the Eagles, including an impressive made jumper and free throw from graduate student forward Connor Nelson.
The home crowd in Bender Arena gave the Eagles the energy they needed to take a 5-point lead over the Raiders. A huge 3-pointer from Smalls stretched American’s lead of 1 out to 3 with 17 seconds left.
Colgate had one last opportunity to score, pushing the ball down the court before it was knocked loose by AU. The ball rolled to Colgate, who shot a 3-point attempt at the buzzer, but failed. The Raider’s 27 conference game win streak, the longest one in the nation, had come to an end at the hands of the Eagles, 61-60.
“Every team in our league is good,” head coach Mike Brennan said. “There’s no gimme games, there’s no guarantees. But hats off to Colgate, what they’ve done is a heck of an accomplishment.”
The Eagles were led by Smalls with 17 points, Stephens contributed 11 points and 4 assists, and Rogers added 9 points.
Smalls felt that the Eagles’ work was not done yet.
“We want to get to the Patriot League Tournament. We want to conquer our goal and win the Patriot League Championship,” he said.
American will next take on the Boston University Terriers on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings and Nina Heller. Copy editing by Isabelle Kravis, Natasha LaChac and Sophia Rocha