The American University men’s basketball team (13-10) defeated the Bucknell University Bison (9-14) 75-66 in a game that included a Black History Month celebration at Bender Arena on Saturday, Feb. 3.
The Eagles were coming off of a hard-fought three-point win on the road against Lafayette College earlier in the week. AU was looking to improve their record in the Patriot League against Bucknell, a team they beat in a close game earlier this season.
American kicked off the game, scoring the first points on the board from an offensive rebound and assist to senior forward Matt Rogers from junior guard Elijah Stephens. In the first ten minutes, the Eagles were hot from three, with 15 of their 19 points coming from behind the arc.
Bucknell struggled to keep up with AU’s scoring momentum, managing to secure only half as many points as the Eagles in the beginning of the game. AU, with a cut from senior guard Lorenzo Donadio and an assist from Rogers, cemented an early 8-point lead.
This momentum continued when sophomore guard Adrian Samuels hit a 3-pointer, his first points of the season, to give AU a 10 point with four minutes remaining in the first half. Despite Bucknell’s full court press, American easily navigated the pressure and finished on the other end.
The Bison were able to shorten the Eagles’ lead with a three-pointer of their own, however back to back baskets from Rogers in the paint and from the foul line ended the first half with American leading the Bison 32-22.
The Eagles opened the second half with the same intensity as the first, pulling off a pick-and-roll that ended with a dunk from Rogers and an assist from Stephens.
However, unlike the first half, the Bison were prepared to match the intensity in the second half. The Bison went on a 10-0 run in three minutes, including two 3-pointers, cutting the Eagles’ lead down to four with 13 minutes left on the clock.
The Eagles responded with a clutch three-pointer during a counting-down shot clock from Donadio. AU was now up 8 again against the Bison.
Bucknell was not ready to roll over to the Eagles, and followed up with an immediate basket of their own in the paint, increasing the pressure on AU, The Bison continued cutting the lead with a dunk and a 3-pointer. With this 7-point run, the American found themselves only up by one against the Bison.
Both teams struggled offensively in the next four minutes, trading free-throws back and forth with six lead changes, until a layup from Bucknell with 6:28 left on the clock gave Bucknell their first lead of the game.
Two made free throws from Rogers helped AU retake the lead, 54-53. Bucknell responded with a basket of their own, taking back the lead again. Donadio took back the lead once again for the Eagles with two made free-throws, only to be matched by a 3-pointer for the Bison, putting Bucknell up 2.
Rogers ended up on the foul line after being fouled on an offensive rebound and only converted one out of two points. Bucknell continued pushing offensively with another layup to push their lead out to 3.
With only a minute left on the clock, Stephens hit a three-pointer for American before leaving the court for the rest of the game due to a foul resulting in an injury. Senior guard Lincoln Ball was chosen to shoot from the foul line on behalf of Stephens, but only converted one of two potential points, giving the Eagles a one-point lead with 19 seconds left in the game.
With only eight seconds left, Bucknell was fouled by American during a shot attempt, and similarly, only converted one point to tie the game 63-63. The Eagles didn’t bring the ball down the court in time, and the game went to overtime.
Overtime was dominated by Rogers, going on a 6-point run in the two minutes including a jumper in the paint, a free throw and a 3-pointer.
Bucknell’s leading scorer with 18 points, Jack Forrest, fouled out with 3:43 left on the clock. Despite this, the Bison cut the Eagles’ lead back down to four. Freshman forward Matt Mayock put in a final three that Bucknell was unable to overcome, and with two final last ditch made free throws from Donadio, the Eagles sealed their victory 75-66.
Rogers was proud of his team's ability to pull through in overtime. “I think this just shows the overall toughness that coach has instilled in us to fight to figure it out.”
Rogers led American with 23 points, nine rebounds and 7 points, followed by Donadio, with a career high of 22 points. Mayock hit a career-high four three-pointers, and Ball pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds.
The Eagles will look to continue their Patriot League season against Navy in Annapolis, Maryland on Feb. 14.
“We’re going to give it our all no matter what,” Rogers said.
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks and Isabelle Kravis.