The Eagles were coming off a thrilling victory on the road against the UMBC Retrievers on Dec. 29, 2023. They looked to open their Patriot League slate with a big-time win against a Lehigh team that was projected to finish second in the Patriot League before the season. Lehigh entered after a road win of their own, traveling to and defeating the Marist Red Foxes on Dec. 30, 2023.
Senior guard Lorenzo Donadio broke out in the first half, scoring 12 points in the first 10 minutes. He accounted for more than half of the Eagles’ points in that span, with the game then sitting at a 23-23 tie.
The rest of the half was a major showing for American’s defense, allowing 13 points in the 10 minutes remaining, matched with 16 points scored by the Eagles to give them the lead at 39-36 heading into halftime. During the first half, six lead changes and three ties took place.
American’s offense found a major boost in the second half, taking the lead with 12 minutes remaining and holding it for the rest of the game. The Eagles scored another 36 points, and three more players from American hit double digits: senior forward Matt Rogers, junior guard Elijah Stephens and sophomore guard Geoff Sprouse.
A 10-0 scoring run for the Eagles with less than five minutes left on the clock sealed the game, punctuated with a fast break dunk from Rogers. The game went final with The Eagles winning 75-66.
Donadio led the team in points with 17, followed by Rogers with 16, Stephens with 15 and Sprouse with 12. Stephens and Donadio combined for 12 assists, with eight and four respectively.
“The key to this game was getting stops when we needed to. [Lehigh] challenged us in the second half, but some extra defensive resistance late was what we needed to close it out,” Eagles head coach Duane Simpkins said after the game. “Coming into the arena today felt like the first game of the season, starting up Patriot League play is where we learn who we are and what we can do. Starting off our schedule with a win against a good Lehigh team is a great way to do that.”
Most of Lehigh’s points in the first half came from junior guard Tyler Whitney-Sidney, who gave the team trouble on defense throughout the match. Whitney-Sidney ended up accounting for just under 40 percent of the Mountain Hawks’ points for the game.
“We were able to shut down Higgins [another star Lehigh player], but Whitney-Sidney got a bunch, so there was a trade-off to be had there,” Simpkins said. “Our goal was to make them take tough shots and hopefully get the ball without letting them score.”
Although proud of his performance, Donadio focused on the team’s performance in the second half.
“This win felt great. I was happy to get as many points as I did, but it felt better to see the team punching back late in the game to hold on,” Donadio said. “This win is the kind of game we wanted for our standards set for the end of the year, and I’m excited to keep going.”
The Eagles’ next home game is Jan. 24 against the Holy Cross Crusaders.
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis.