The winter winds blew through Bender Arena Feb. 5 as a horde of Raiders swaggered their way to victory.
The Colgate Raiders (14-11) defeated the American University men’s basketball team (6-18) 86-68.
The game was intense from the outset. The Eagles were playing without sophomore Matt Rogers and senior Connor Nelson, but AU remained competitive with the 2021 Patriot League Champions.
There were seven lead changes in the first half, as both teams jockeyed for control of the game. AU’s offensive strategy was the same as it has been all season. The Eagles attacked the basket, driving to the hoop and attempting to draw fouls. Sophomores Johnny O’Neil and Colin Smalls led AU’s first-half assault on the rim.
O’Neil utilized his vast offensive arsenal to torture the Raiders defense. The forward scored from inside the paint, from midrange picture-perfect fadeaway jumper, from three with precision shooting and O’Neil finished the half with nine points. Smalls, who is averaging 10 points this season, was more direct in his offensive attack.
The 6-foot-2-inch guard drove to the basket repeatedly, undeterred by the threat of contact from Colgate, and finished the period with six points.
HIGHLIGHT | Colin Smalls with the STRONG finish!
WATCH: https://t.co/QafhVsG3YM pic.twitter.com/3ydF91X7H3
The Eagles’ offense output was able to keep pace with the Raiders’ offense and the game was tied 24-24 with less than seven minutes left in the first half. AU’s aggressive play did not result in success at the basket, and AU finished the first half shooting under 38 percent from the field. AU scoring troubles worsened in the last six minutes and they only scored four points the remainder of the half.
The Raiders’ did not stop scoring and Colgate went on a 16-4 run to end the half up 40-28. The backbone of Colgate’s offense is its three-point shooting, and the Raiders are first in the Patriot League in three-point percentage.
Colgate shredded AU all game with its long-range artillery barrage, finishing the game shooting 47 percent from deep. AU’s defense struggled to adjust without Rogers’ presence in the paint, and the Raiders plundered the basket. Colgate finished with 44 points in the paint and only missed five layups.
However, AU fought back in the second half. Senior Stacy Beckton Jr.’s six points in the first five minutes sparked AU’s offense to begin the period, and his efforts cut the deficit to single digits. Beckton was honored before the game by the AU Athletic Department for scoring a thousand points and was given a commemorative basketball.
O’Neil’s three-point shooting and layups also cut away at Colgate’s lead, and he finished the game with a team-high 19 points.
HIGHLIGHT | Johnny O'Neil with the impressive drive and draws the foul.
WATCH: https://t.co/QafhVsG3YM pic.twitter.com/vkVfjTmAl9
AU also got help from a fresh face. Freshman forward Matt Delaney provided much-needed muscle on the interior during the second half. The 6-foot-7-inch forward pulled down three crucial offensive rebounds and finished the game with nine points. Combined with O’Neil and Beckton Jr.’s efforts brought the deficit down to five points with less than 14 minutes left.
However, AU’s season-long struggle with free throws came back to bite them once again. AU had six free throw attempts in the first seven minutes of the second half and missed four free throws.
AU was also unable to stop the Raider’s incessant bombardment from three and the Raiders slowly pulled away from the Eagles to end the game marking the Eagles’ third loss in a row.
“They’re a good team. They don’t make mistakes, and I thought we battled back,” AU head coach Mike Brennan said after the game. “We did what we could, it just wasn’t enough.”
Brennan also praised Beckton Jr. and said he was integral to the team.
“He does everything,” Brennan said. “Hopefully the young guys learn from him.”
AU will be on the road again for its next matchup against Holy Cross Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. EST. The game will air on ESPN+.
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