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Patriot League Notebook: Capital Road

The Patriot League is one of the most competitive leagues in the country. Washington D.C. is home to power conferences like the Big Ten (Maryland) and Big East (Georgetown) and what many would consider a Group of 5 conference in way of the Atlantic 10 (George Mason and George Washington).

But in between the giants is American University. The campus sits right down the road from Georgetown University. The ride to campus brings you through a picturesque part of our Nation’s Capital. As you come up winding roads lined by trees and multi-million dollar homes, you arrive to a quaint campus for enough away from the monuments to make you forget that you’re in DC.

The Eagles have had some success in their history. Kermit Washington is probably their best known player. There has been 3 tournament appearances since in the last nine years (2008, 2009, 2014).

For those of a certain age, when you mention the Naval Academy they immediately think of David Robinson. Nicknamed, “The Admiral, Robinson took the Midshipmen on a magical journey through the NCAA tournament. The Midshipmen won racked up three wins, including one over second seed Syracuse, before falling to Duke.

Arriving on the Naval Academy campus quickly makes you forget about the crowded major interstates that lead you to campus. It’s everything you would imagine an Academy campus would be.

Their seasons have been about as different as Washington DC and Annapolis, DC. Navy came into the American game riding a 5 game winning streak. What’s impressive about the streak is they had lost four in a row before playing Colgate. Sitting at 0-3 in the conference meant the game against the Raiders was about as much as a must win as one could be in January.

The Mids met the challenge as Tom Lacey, Hasan Abdullah, and Shawn Anderson scored 14 points a piece in the 12 point win. That led Navy on a four game, three on the road, heading into their game with American.

The Eagles are definitely a work in progress. They have two freshman and sophomore that play very significant roles in Coach Mike Brennan’s offense. Coming into the game against the Midshipmen, American had dropped 5 of their last 6.

Wednesday January 25th Navy at American

Navy and American renewed their rivalry on this night and both teams left with some positives. For Navy, the continued their winning streak behind a very strong performance by Tom Lacey. The big man scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds (10 offensive) to lead  the Midshipmen to a 71-53 victory.  Getting off to a good start on the road is always important and Navy did it in a big way by scoring the first 13 points of the game. Bryce Dulin and Hasan Abdullah continued their hot shooting. Dulin went 5-7 from the field. Abdullah continued to cook from the 3 point line hitting 4-6 from long range.

Despite the slow start, American eventually cut a 13-0 deficit to 16-14 behind strong play by freshman Sa’eed Nelson. Sophomore Lonnie Nelson would lead the team in scoring with 13 and freshman Mark Gasperini put in a solid night’s work with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists.

Saturday January 28th, Holy Cross at Navy

Navy headed back home to face Holy Cross a team they had lost to earlier in the season. The Crusaders won behind there 1-3-1 zone and a last second layup by Patrick Benzan. This would not be the case in Annapolis. Once again, Navy got off the a fast start taking advantage of the 1-3-1 match up zone by swinging the ball to the open corner. Shawn Anderson and Bryce Dulin hit 3’s to open the game. Eventually Navy got the lead up to 11 and settled for a 9 point halftime lead.

The second half started off slow for both teams. Neither team scored for the first 3:02 of the half before Anderson hit a 3 pushing Navy’s lead to 12. This was the beginning of a 7-0 run to start the second half. With 9 minutes left, Navy extended the lead out to 19 before the Crusaders staged a mini-comeback but never got closer than 10 points. Anderson would finish the game with 15 points and Tom Lacey would grab 15 rebounds.

The 60-47 victory extended Navy’s winning streak to 7. as they hit the road for the next two games (Boston U and Colgate).

Sunday January 29th, Colgate at American

Colgate was the next team to come to D.C. and a chance for American to sweep the season series. Earlier in the season, these two played a classic OT game that the Eagles would eventually pull out. Mark Gasperini came out like a man on a mission. Gasperini scored 14 points in the first half and helped American jump out to a 14 point lead. But, the Eagles couldn’t sustain it as Colgate ended the half on a 13-2 run, cutting the lead down to 3.

The second started out as a see-saw battle with Gasperini eventually getting into foul trouble. This completely changed the game around and Colgate started to get in a rhythm on offense. With 1:06 left, Sa’eed Nelson hit a 3 to put American up 65-64 but it would be their last lead of the game. Colgate closed out the game on a 6-0 run and scored a big 70-65 victory on the road.

Two teams connected by the Capital Beltway continue their journey throughout the Patriot League. Both carry high hopes with them. Navy’s hopes are in the now while American’s is in the future.

Player of the Week: Eric Fanning (Boston U)

Rookie of the Week: Tyler Scanlon (Boston U)

Honorable Mention: Cam Gregory (Loyola-MD), Kimbal MacKenzie (Bucknell), Malachi Alexander (Holy Cross), Tim Kempton (Lehigh)

Bucknell 9-1 17-6
Boston 7-3 12-10
Navy 7-3 12-10
Lehigh 6-4 12-9
Loyola Maryland 5-5 11-10
Holy Cross 5-5 11-12
Colgate 5-5 7-16
Army West Point 2-8 8-14
Lafayette 2-8 6-15
American 2-8 5-16

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