American 95, St. Francis (PA) 82 Dec 4, 2018 23:06:41 GMT -5
Post by notjuanjones on Dec 4, 2018 23:06:41 GMT -5
When is 45>50?
When it allows you to get off the deck after an opponent hits you with a tough shot, and fight through a tough stretch, like teams have to do from time to time in basketball. And thus AU's 45 second-half points were, to me, much more important than the 50 it posted in the first, allowing us to get the bad taste of the Wagner loss out of our mouth and go to 5-2 on the season.
AU couldn't have been more efficient in the first half Tuesday at Bender, with Sam breaking out of a mini-slump with one of the best shooting stretches in recent memory, hitting six of seven threes as the Eagles built a 20-point halftime lead, 50-30, and shot almost 70 percent from the floor. (Remember a couple of years ago, when we couldn't bust 50 in a game?) That kind of shooting wasn't sustainable, obviously, and you knew the Red Flash would come back, and it did, getting as close as five midway through the second half. SFA didn't shoot well, but as with Wagner, SFPA plays hard. And for a while, it looked like they would, as with Wagner, just outplay us. But AU held St. Francis off, with Larry, Mark and Marvin each making some big shots in the crucial part of the game, to win a game that, frankly, worried me coming in.
The Eagles scored the first seven points of the game, forcing a quick SFPA timeout, and AU kept pouring it on, quickly building a double-digit lead that grew as large as 23 in the first half. Nothing fancy; the guys just moved the ball beautifully, and Sam was, inexplicably, left open time and time again in the flow of the offense. His second three of the half made it 19-5; his third came right after, and when Mark hit Sa'eed cutting to the hoop for an uncontested layup with eight minutes gone in the half, our lead was 24-8. A minute later, Sam struck again from deep, making it 29-12, and we maintained that advantage for the rest of the half, with Sa'eed orchestrating the offense to near perfection. Sam's fifth three of the half, put AU up 36-16 at the 7:50 mark; number six, at 5:05, kept AU up big, 41-23. Defensively, we did a great job on SFPA's leading scorer, Keith Braxton, holding him to four points. And two post-ups by Mark to end the half left the Eagles with that 20-point edge.
None of us believed it would last, right?
We were correct!
St. Francis was aggressive at both ends the first 10 minutes of the second half, and erased most of the lead in a...flash. (Sorry.) After Sam's layup with 18:20 left made it 54-32, SFPA went on an 18-4 run in the next five minutes. Braxton and his backcourt mate, Jamaal King, are both first-team preseason all-NEC picks for a reason, and they attacked, especially after Sa'eed picked up his third foul early in the half. Braxton scored eight straight, and Andre Wolford's three with 16 minutes to go made it 56-43. Marvin scored, but King's three-point play with 15:03 to go, two Braxton free throws and a fast-break bucket by Isaiah Blackmon with 13:23 left made it 58-50. SFPA's bench was up and loud, its fans were making noise, and our team and crowd was sitting on its hands. (Students. Make some noise. Please.)
Mark, though, began to assert himself down low against the skinnier post players SFPA used, and isn't it great that, for once, we have the bigger big man? He made two free throws and posted up for a bucket, and after Blackmon hit a three with 11:08 to go brought the Flash within 62-55, Sam found Mark underneath for a layup to push AU back up by nine. SFPA's Randall Gaskins scored four straight to pull the Flash within five, 64-59, with 9:47 remaining, and Mike called time--and he was not happy with his squad if the TV cameras were any indication. He may have...inspired the fellas, because they came out of the timeout with much more energy. Sa'eed beat the shot clock with a great pass to Mark for a layup just as the shot clock expired. Braxton scored to keep it a five-point game, but Mark passed out of traffic to an open Marvin in the corner, and he knocked down a huge three with eight and a half minutes left to push us back up eight, 69-61. King missed a drive, and at the other end, Sa'eed drove and dished, hitting Larry in the corner for another triple, making it 72-61.
Marvin hit two free throws with 6:53 left to make it a 13-point game, and Sa'eed made a great play the next time down, contesting King's drive, then going coast to coast at the other end for a fast-break layup that put AU up 15. Larry finished the 14-2 counter-punch with a drive for two more, and we'd held St. Francis off; they didn't get closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Sam finished with a career-high 33 points, making 12 of 15 from the floor, along with six rebounds, in 39 minutes. Sa'eed played another sublime game, with 17 points on six of 10 shooting, with 12 assists. Larry and Mark each played their best games of the season, playing with purpose and efficiency when we needed it. Larry had 15 points, nine in the second half, along with 4 rebounds and 3 blocks; Mark had 14 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists, making 6 of 11 shots. We needed him to assert himself inside, and he did; I'd hoped for a breakthrough in the preview, and we got it. If Mark can do this regularly...man, we could be really good. We shot 61 percent from the floor (34-56), including 10 of 24 threes, and had 26 assists on those 34 baskets. That is outstanding.
Good win, and good perseverance.
On to Howard!