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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
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Men’s basketball survives late rally from UMBC

Eagles defeat Retrievers 87-85 on the road

The American University men’s basketball team (6-7) defeated the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers (5-10) by a score of 87-85 at the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Catonsville, Maryland. 

The Eagles came into this game seeking a victory in their final non-conference game of the season, having lost on Dec. 21 at Virginia Tech. UMBC was hungry for a home victory, following their most recent game ending in a road defeat at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Senior forward Matt Rogers started this game after missing multiple games beforehand due to an injury. In his absence, sophomore center Jermaine Ballisager Webb stepped up, putting up a career-high 15 points at Virginia Tech. 

The first half started off with a quick flurry of points from the Retrievers, a 15-8 run to start off the game before the Eagles could even blink. The Eagles then clawed back and took a big lead, a 3-pointer from freshman forward Matt Mayock with 12 minutes left in the first half marked the third and final lead change of the game. 

American started to rack up points after this lead change, going up to a 47-31 lead at halftime. At the break, Ballisager Webb led the Eagles in points with 11, followed close behind by Mayock and junior guard Elijah Stephens with 9. 

16 of American’s 47 points at the half were generated from turnovers, a theme that the Eagles held for the entire game: clamping down defense to generate points wherever possible. American’s field goal percentage also helped create the lead they got out to, sitting at a lofty 61 percent. 

The Eagles came out in the second half much in the same way that the first half ended, racking up a big lead and continuing their scoring run. American allowed UMBC to enter back into the game a bit, but still held a 76-61 lead with nine minutes remaining in regulation. This is when the Retrievers found some fire, rattling off 13 unanswered points in a four-minute span. After a timeout from American, the Eagles only led by 4 points, with UMBC’s home crowd exploding with hope for the Retrievers to complete the comeback. 

However, due to some poor clock management from UMBC at the end of the game, two made free throws from sophomore guard Geoff Sprouse was enough to ice the victory for American, by a score of 87-85. 

Five Eagles put up over 10 points in this game: Stephens, Rogers, Mayock, Sprouse and Ballisager Webb, who led the team with 17. Stephens recorded a team-leading four steals on the day, and Rogers notched seven rebounds, more than any other player on the team. 

Rogers said it was good to be back from his injury.

“I’m feeling great,” Rogers said. “It was nice to have a break to help fully recover from the injury, but I really missed playing with my guys, so it was nice to get back to that tonight.” 

American’s head coach Duane Simpkins had high praise for Ballisager Webb, saying “Jermaine stepped up just as we needed him to early on in this game. Matt [Rogers] was knocking some of the rust off with this being his first game back, and Jermaine filled the role that Matt plays well as he [Rogers] got back into his groove.” 

Simpkins also praised his team’s ability to spread the ball around, saying “Our positioning was great tonight, we always had four or five guys in the paint that we could pass around to, and it kept their [UMBC]’s defense on its toes, not knowing where those points were coming from.”

“This game is a testament of us learning how to win,” Simpkins said. “We got a few days recently of just practice, and I think that practice showed up in what we did tonight. I’m excited to head into Patriot League play, it’s a whole new season where we’ll see what this team is.” 

The Eagles’ next home game is against the Army Black Knights on Jan. 13.

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis.

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