American University Coach Chris Knoche decided not to tell his team. While the Eagles were warming up before the game, he was in his office watching more important events unfold.
He thought about telling them. He knew they had a right to know. But he knew how it was affecting him and he decided not to say anything. So before a distracted crowd of 1,225 at Bender Arena that thinned out as the night went on, the Eagles defeated William and Mary, 87-70, in a Colonial Athletic Association game last night.
"It was tough to get involved, knowing what I knew at 7 o'clock," Knoche said. "It was my choice to tell them or not. If it made an impact on them the way it did on me, I knew it would affect them."
William and Mary Coach Chuck Swenson, who signed a three-year extension to his contract on Tuesday, said when he heard the news "I felt a little nauseous because I have friends over there."
Nonetheless, the Eagles (8-5, 3-1) won their third straight CAA game after an embarrassing home loss Jan. 5 to North Carolina-Wilmington. They went to the foul line 42 times, making 31, in a game that was closer than the score indicated.
Sophomore Brian Gilgeous had 19 points and seven rebounds and held the Tribe's leading scorer, Thomas Roberts, to 11 points on four-of-16 shooting. Craig Sedmak also had 19 points for the Eagles, while Ben Blocker led the Tribe (8-6, 2-1) with 17.
William and Mary played without guard Brendan Connor, its third-leading scorer who sprained an ankle against Navy last week. The Tribe's second-highest scorer, Scott Smith, had eight points.
"Our intensity was there; our intelligence wasn't," Swenson said.
Said Knoche about Gilgeous's defensive work: "Our defensive strategy on Thomas Roberts is Brian Gilgeous. He plays the other team's best player every night and he always does the job."
The Eagles slowly pulled away from a 32-30 halftime lead. Tied at 35, they took the lead for good on consecutive three-pointers by Sedmak and Brock Wortman.
The Tribe closed in a few times, but Wortman made a three-pointer, Erick Grace scored 12 second-half points and the Eagles made 11 of 12 free throws in the last two minutes.
"I'm happy for my team, but it's difficult to get too excited considering what's going on," Knoche said.