American's Juan Jones, who usually shoots from the outside only out of desperation, said he shot 100 jump shots every day after practice last week. It paid off last night.
Jones made 10 of 13 field-goal attempts, including a turnaround shot in the key with 55 seconds to play, and the Eagles held off La Salle College, 65-63, in a key East Coast Conference game before 2,618 at Fort Myer.
The Eagles, 14-9 overall and 5-2 in the ECC, still have an outside chance of winning the ECC East Division. They have two conference games remaining, at Towson State and at Hofstra, which leads the division with a 7-1 mark. La Salle is 11-12, 5-2.
"We needed this one badly," said a drained Coach Ed Tapscott. "Jones played a very good game. He can shoot the ball. I told him and Gordon (Austin) they have to shoot more from the outside to take pressure off Ed (Sloane) and Mark (Nickens).
"Juan is always trying to get close to dunk and picking up charges. I told him to pull up and shoot it."
Jones listened. The Eagles were in a tight battle with the Explorers and neither Nickens, who had eight points, nor Sloane, who had three, were having a good game. So Jones started pulling up and shooting. He scored 16 of his game-high 24 points after the half, getting seven in a row at one point to keep La Salle from getting too far ahead.
La Salle, led by Ralph Lewis' 20 points, built a 60-56 margin with 4:37 left.
"Each time we took the pressure off, they'd get a basket," said Jones, who also had 10 rebounds.
Austin, at the foul line, scored two of his 14 points to cut the deficit to two. After La Salle missed, Jones was fouled and made two free throws for a tie at 60 with 3:42 left.
After La Salle's Al Butts, who scored 19 points, made a free throw to give his team a 61-60 lead, the Eagles came down and went right to Jones, guarded by 7-foot Tom Piotrowski. Jones never hesitated, turning and scoring from eight feet out. He also was fouled and made the free throw for a 63-61 lead with 55 seconds to play.
"I figured if I was going to practice that hard, I might as well shoot in the game," Jones said. "I felt real confident out there. I didn't care if the defender was right in my face."
After Jones scored, Butts missed a leaning 15-footer and AU's Ferdie Aunon came away with the rebound. Austin was quickly fouled and the senior made the first of his one-and-one free throws for a three-point lead with 15 seconds left.
Butts scored on a follow shot to again make it a one point game with five seconds left. Austin was fouled on the in-bounds pass and his free throw ensured victory.