Every couple of minutes last night, a Bender Arena spectator miffed by American University's uninspired play would yell, "Wake up, boys!"
Finally, after 31 ragged minutes, Eagles forward Erick Grace sounded the alarm, sparking a second-half run that produced an 80-72 victory over Division II Florida Atlantic.
Grace, a 6-foot-7 sophomore from Lakeland, Fla., scored 13 of his 17 points in a 5 1/2-minute stretch as the Eagles overcame a five-point deficit with 10 minutes left.
The Eagles (4-4) had good reason for their spacey play. Final exams began this week and they were coming off an emotional home loss to seventh-ranked Ohio State Saturday, with about 3,000 fewer fans in attendance last night.
"You got so many things going on," Eagles Coach Chris Knoche said. "Told these guys in the locker room I was very, very apprehensive going into this game."
In seven previous appearances, Grace averaged 4.7 points on 13-of-40 shooting from the floor. Last night he made six of eight from the field and five of six from the line in only 12 minutes.
"We were emotionally drained after the Ohio State game and we showed it in the first half," he said. "I was watching it from the bench and I knew we needed a lift. I just wanted to get some little things done to help us out."
The Owls (5-5) extended a 36-32 halftime lead to 59-54 on Caesar Yeadon's basket with 9:57 left. They were the aggressors from the start, scoring 16 of their first 26 baskets came from inside five feet.
But after Knoche called a timeout, Grace sparked a 16-2 run giving the Eagles a 70-61 lead with 3:53 to go. Florida Atlantic couldn't get closer than five points again.
Grace also did a fine defensive job on forward Dexter Hill, who had 25 points but none the final 13 minutes. Darrin Herrick added 21 as Florida Atlantic made 32 of 53 shots but was outrebounded, 40-29.
"We needed a big man to assert himself on both ends of the floor," Knoche said. "Erick responded."
Scranton 68, Catholic 61:
Chris Haray had 23 points and 11 rebounds as Scranton (6-3) led the entire game at home. Mike Connelly led the Cardinals (2-8) with 15 points and Jay Jackson had 14 points and 10 rebounds.