The American University men’s basketball team (4-5) lost to the St. Francis University Red Flash (4-5) in Bender Arena on Dec. 2 by a score of 75-73. This loss came after American held an 11-point lead at halftime.
St. Francis entered the game looking to create a winning streak in the Patriot League, after they visited and defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks on Nov. 29, winning 62-61. American entered this game after an 80-75 road loss at Harvard after outscoring the Crimson in the second half.
American got off to a hot start in the first half, putting up a 28-8 run in the first 13 minutes of the game. Six Eagles notched points in this run, with sophomore center Jermaine Ballisager Webb leading with six points.
The Eagles faltered as three turnovers in quick succession allowed St. Francis to find their way back into the game before halftime. The Red Flash put up a 21-12 run to end the first half.
The second half saw the Eagles struggle defensively as St. Francis found their groove. The ten minutes of the second half were a dead heat, as the Eagles and Red Flash both scored 19 points. With the Eagles still up 14, many of the fans gathered in Bender Arena began to cool down a bit, sensing an imminent win for their team.
With the crowd quieting down, St. Francis started putting together scoring play after scoring play, getting turnovers and rebounds where they needed to bring this game within 4 points with about five minutes left to play. The Eagles’ play also got sloppier — they committed fouls to gift St. Francis more points. Fouls, turnovers, steals and missed shots wrote the story of the last five minutes of this game.
With less than a minute left to play, the Eagles were down by a single point. American fouled Red Flash players three times in the last minute, but St. Francis only put up 5 points from the fouls. However, the Eagles were not able to answer in time. A buzzer-beater shot from senior forward Matt Rogers set the game’s final score at 75-73, a loss for American.
Rogers led the team in points and rebounds with 24 and 15, respectively. Following Rogers in points was junior guard Elijah Stephens with 17.
After the game, Eagles head coach Duane Simpkins said fouling was the team’s biggest problem on the day.
“Giving a team that’s struggling from the field free points off of fouls is what slowed us down today. Sometimes, all they need is to see the ball go through the net, and seeing that happen time after time gave them momentum.”
Heading into a Patriot League schedule starting within a month, Simpkins said this team needs to “shore up defensively. If we can play defense like we did in the first 15, 16 minutes today without fouling as much, it will lead to big wins down the line.”
The Eagles return home on Jan. 3, 2024 to face the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in their Patriot League home opener.
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis.