Men's College Basketball: American Beats Navy, 64-59, Clinches Patriot League Title
Thursday, February 26, 2009
After securing its second consecutive Patriot League regular season title last night with a 64-59 victory over Navy, American University honored its seven seniors during a 15-minute ceremony. The festivities celebrated the players' careers, but in a way, served as a salute for what they accomplished in the final minute.
Senior guard Garrison Carr made the go-ahead free throw with 28 seconds left, then stretched the lead with two more foul shots before fellow senior Frank Borden sealed the Eagles' ninth straight victory with a pair of free throws.
Those shots capped an 11-3 run and provided AU (20-7, 12-1) with home-court advantage throughout the league tournament, which begins Wednesday. With their 15th win in 16 games heading into Saturday's regular season finale at Lafayette, the Eagles reached 20 victories in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1981-82 and 1982-83.
"It's a great feeling to know you accomplished something and really did something for the program," said senior forward Jordan Nichols, who had nine rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals.
Although the seniors contributed the points down the stretch, it was a sophomore who brought the Eagles back from a late three-point deficit.
Nick Hendra (11 points in 16 minutes) made a free throw, and after AU rebounded his miss, he drove for the tying layup with three minutes left. Hendra then grabbed a loose ball for an inside basket to put the Eagles ahead.
Adam Teague (19 points) restored Navy's lead with a three-pointer, and after both teams missed, Carr (20 points) made his first two free throws.
"I was extremely nervous in the second half, especially when they made their run," said Carr, the favorite for the league's player of the year award. "I don't ever remember feeling like that in any game in my life. I knew it was Seniors Night and I just wanted to win so bad."
Besides the nervousness, AU Coach Jeff Jones said he thought his team was fatigued during a second half in which it shot 28.6 percent.
AU built a 12-point lead in the first half, thanks in large part to seven three-pointers, but Navy pulled within three by halftime. After building the lead back to eight, the Eagles watched third-place Navy (18-10, 7-6) go ahead with 7 minutes 20 seconds left. The teams exchanged the lead before Clif Colbert's layup and Jordan Sugars's one-hander gave the Midshipmen a 56-53 advantage with four minutes to go.
On its final seven possessions, however, Navy made just 1 of 5 shots and committed two turnovers. With his team trailing 60-59, Kaleo Kina (19 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 7 turnovers) missed from underneath with 20 seconds left.
After Carr made two more free throws, Midshipmen Coach Billy Lange elected to go for two points instead of a potential tying three-pointer.