Basketball -- American University's last home loss prior to Monday night was incorrectly listed in Tuesday's editions. It was in February 1989. (Published 12/5/90)
The home winning streak was over. His frontcourt had been overpowered and there were times when the emotions of a rookie coach were quite evident.
But after American University was beaten last night by Old Dominion, 87-82, Eagles Coach Chris Knoche found a lot of good things to say about his team's gritty effort.
The Monarchs (3-2) blew to a 17-4 lead and on at least six occasions seemed on the verge of turning it into a rout. But the Eagles (2-1) refused to fold, repeatedly making electrifying bursts against a team with superior size and offensive ability.
"We made a few great runs and we showed great heart, but we couldn't sustain the poise and the effort to get over the hump," an emotionally drained Knoche said.
The loss snapped American's 15-game winning streak at Bender Arena, dating from February 1987. If it hadn't happened last night, it probably would have come to a crashing halt in 11 days when ninth-ranked Ohio State comes to town.
The Monarchs, who will join American in the Colonial Athletic Association next season, led by 32-14 after 12 minutes and by 76-61 with six minutes left. All-American candidate Chris Gatling and forward Ricardo Leonard, from Spingarn High School, controlled the lane for 35 points and 20 rebounds.
But like a swarm of gnats, the Eagles pestered the Monarchs into 20 turnovers with a stifling press and trapping defense. They shrunk a 48-34 halftime deficit to 50-44, and after Old Dominion re-established a double-digit lead with three minutes to go, the Eagles hit three three-point shots in less than two minutes to make it interesting.
Monarchs Coach Tom Young, who coached at American from 1969 to 1973, never felt the lead was safe: "Not when you play this way," he said. "I liked the fact that we kept the lead, but it got too close because of the way we handled the press."
Sophomore Brian Gilgeous scored 21 points, Fred Tillman scored 16 and Craig Sedmak had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles, who made 12 steals but were outrebounded, 41-29.
"If the press hadn't worked, we may have been talking about a laugher," Knoche said.
After the Eagles took a 2-0 lead, the Monarchs scored 13 straight points, and 17 of 19, to take command. Gatling, a 6-foot-10 center who played for the U.S. team in the Goodwill Games, had six quick points, but sat out the final 11 minutes of the half with three fouls.
The Eagles scored eight straight points early in the second half to slice a 14-point deficit to six.
"I'm just glad to get out of here with a win," Young said.