The American University men’s basketball team (10-8) defeated the Army Black Knights (5-12) on Jan. 13 in Bender Arena by a score of 79-60. This game saw senior forward Matt Rogers score his 1,000th career point, the 34th men’s basketball player to reach that milestone in a career at American.
The Eagles were looking for a bounce-back win in this game after going 1-1 in their last two Patriot League games on the road: a 71-63 victory at Bucknell on Jan. 6 and a 72-68 defeat at the hands of the Boston University Terriers on Jan. 10. The Black Knights were looking to bounce back as well, their most recent game having ended in a 71-65 loss to the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds.
Bender Arena was packed near capacity for this game, as the Eagles were hosting their annual Elementary School Day, bringing in students from elementary schools around the area to watch the game and support the team. American received an ovation on their entrance to the court, and the assembled crowd cheered the Eagles on to victory, being a disrupting force for the Black Knights during plays and shots from the 3-point line.
Army started strong with an 8-point lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, going up 23-15 before the Eagles got settled in their rhythm. After that point, the Eagles found their fighting spirit, especially on the back of senior guard Colin Smalls, who scored 8 of his team-leading 16 points in the last nine minutes of the first half. His scoring gave the Eagles confidence and the lead, going on a 30-7 run to close out the half.
During a timeout in the first half, the public address announcer informed the crowd that Rogers had reached 1,000 career points during his time at American, joining 33 other players in the history of the basketball program to do so. After the game, Rogers said that while the milestone is nice, he “came here to win basketball games, so I’ll be happy if we just keep winning. My time here has been amazing, and I’ve loved every single moment playing with my guys, but that’s always been the main goal.”
The Eagles, up 15 coming out of halftime, protected the ball and kept pace with Army’s scoring, not finding any big runs or huge fast breaks, just scoring consistently to keep them ahead. They scored another 34 points to Army’s 30 in the second half and ran out the clock to massive cheers from the congregation of fans.
Senior guard Lorenzo Donadio, junior guard Elijah Stephens, sophomore guard Geoff Sprouse and sophomore center Jermaine Ballisager Webb joined Smalls in notching 10 or more points on the day. Smalls led the team with 16. Ballisager Webb led the team in rebounds, recording nine on the day, while Stephens led the team with 8 assists.
After the game, American head coach Duane Simpkins said adjustment was key to the team finding their way back into the game, especially after being down 8 points early on.
“Army started hot in the first eight minutes, so we had to adjust our game a little bit, playing with more urgency at the line and taking away their ability to shoot 3-pointers.”
Simpkins also spoke to five different players going over 10 points on the day.
“It speaks to our guys sharing the basketball around and letting everyone get their shots in. We have some that struggle at the line, but we still get the ball to them so that they take their shots; it’s not one guy’s show.”
The Eagles next travel to play the Lehigh Mountain Hawks on Jan. 20. They return home on Jan. 24 to take on the Holy Cross Crusaders.
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella.