American's pressing defense wore down road-weary William and Mary in the second half and the Eagles ran away to a 69-54 decision before 1,000 last night at Fort Myer.
Both teams appeared ragged after a hard two weeks, and AU needed a fine all-around game from reserve guard Gordon Austin, who recorded career highs of 17 points and nine assists in 23 minutes, and good rebounding efforts from Dennis Ross and Juan Jones (10 each) to record its 14th victory in 17 games.
"We were a little flat when we came out, probably because it is our fourth game in eight days," said AU Coach Gary Williams, who equaled his number of coaching victories in one season. "It's not the physical aspect, so much . . . it's the mental concentration that's tough. We tried to force them to run with us a little in the first half and were finally able to do so. But a six-point lead is not enough to force William and Mary out of its game plan."
As long as the deliberate Indians (11-6) set up and played their half-court game they were fine. They refused to run with the quicker Eagles, content to work the ball around until they saw an opening. Mike Strayhorn saw three openings, making three straight shots to give William and Mary a 14-8 lead with 11:03 left in the first half.
Austin helped AU with twisting moves inside the lane and passes to Mark Nickens and Robin Hoey on the sides. Nickens, who finished with 13 points, and Austin combined for 11 straight points in one stretch. A steal and layup by Austin put AU ahead to stay, 24-23, with 3:30 left in the first half.
"I enjoy my role of coming off the bench, mainly because I know I'll get to play 10 minutes or more rather than the three or so I played last year," Austin said. "I'm more comfortable when I know I'll stay out there a while. They (Indians) were so worried about stopping the jump shots, they let me drive through the middle."
Two free throws and a layup by Ross gave AU a 32-26 lead at halftime.
The Eagles came out running in the second half and the Indians were unable to keep up. The visitors made only three baskets and committed five turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Meanwhile, Nickens and Hoey scored four points each to send the Eagles out to a 46-32 lead. Hoey's last two points came from the free throw line following a technical on Indian Coach Bruce Parkhill.
AU stretched its lead out to 18 points following a three-point play by Austin and seven consecutive free throws. Parkhill, who berated the officials throughout the second half, was assessed a second technical, but the game had long been decided.
Parkhill refused to blame officiating for his team's loss. "I guess you could say the game was ugly but their offensive rebounding and our turnovers killed us. You can't give up as many offensive rebounds as we did and expect to win. But we've been on the road all month (January) and we're dead on our feet."
Despite having a slight height advantage, the Indians were outrebounded, 37-31. The visitors shot only 41 percent from the floor and committed 16 turnovers. AU made only 22 of 51 shots, but many of their baskets came on fast breaks or follow-up shots.