American University Coach Mike Brennan had emphasized the importance of limiting Colgate’s three-point opportunities in the Patriot League quarterfinals Wednesday. So during a 59-50 victory at Bender Arena, the Eagles turned the long-range Raiders into a two-point shooting team.
Brennan and his squad understood the importance of improving their rebounding. So they ended up yielding few second chances.
The second-seeded Eagles (18-12) grasped the urgency of seizing early control against an opponent that had beaten them at home a month ago. So with an 18-0 surge in the first half, they went ahead and proceeded to secure a home semifinal against third-seeded Holy Cross at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The Crusaders (19-12) advanced with a 54-48 victory over No. 6 Lehigh (14-18).
In the regular season meetings, American won by 15 in Worcester, Mass., and by six in Washington.
In the other semifinal, top-seeded Boston University (23-9) will host No. 5 Army (15-15). The Terriers routed ninth-seeded Lafayette, 91-54, while the Black Knights edged No. 4 Bucknell, 72-71. The final is next Wednesday.
Seventh-seeded Colgate (13-18) was riding a four-game winning streak, but playing a third game in five days seemed to take a toll. The Eagles built a 30-15 halftime lead and were never seriously threatened in the second half.
The Raiders, second in the conference in field goal percentage and three-point accuracy, shot 39.6 overall, missed 9 of 18 free throws and made 3 of 15 three-pointers. They were averaging 8.6 made on 21.4 attempted from long distance.
“We did a good job guarding the [three-point] line,” said Brennan, the league’s coach of the year in his first season. “They have five guys — actually, more than that — that can come in and bang threes. It helps when they did get an open look or two, they happened to not knock them down.”
The Eagles turned a 7-6 deficit into a 24-7 lead by holding the Raiders scoreless on 16 consecutive possessions over almost 11 minutes (13 misses and five turnovers).
Schoof made a pair of three-pointers, and Darius “Pee Wee” Gardner both finished and sparked transition baskets. He set up Jesse Reed for a 17-point advantage, prompting Colgate’s second timeout in less than two minutes.
“Everyone was looking for each other,” Schoof said, “and we were getting stops.”
Murphy Burnatowski (15 points) ended the Raiders’ rut with a short jumper, but Schoof made a difficult baseline jumper and AU held the Raiders without a shot on the final possession of the half.
Colgate hit 7 of 24 shots in the opening half and missed all seven three-pointers. Point guard Austin Tillotson, the league’s second most accurate shooter at 60.2 percent, was 2 for 6 in the half and 4 for 12 overall.
Despite the healthy margin, the Eagles were not in the clear. Eleven days earlier, they had surrendered almost all of a 23-point lead in the last 12 minutes before staving off Army.
However, Brennan received a lift from Marko Vasic, who, with five consecutive points midway through the half, became the first AU non-starter to score against the Raiders in three meetings.