American holds on to beat Army, 57-54

American Eagles beat Army Black Knights 57-54 in Bender Arena Wednesday night as a Cleveland Richard three-point jumper hit the rim at the buzzer. Coach Zach Spiker decided to shake up the starting line up as Mitch McDonald, Tyrell Thompson and Jeremy Hence opened the contest. It didn't produce the desired results as Army once again struggled with a slow start that cost them the game.

Tyrell Thompson scored the first points of the game on a fast break layup to give Army its only lead of the night. While Thompson played well scoring 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting the rest of the new lineup struggled to score. American led by their star Romanian born forward 6-9 Vlad Moldoveanu outscored the Black Knights 25-6 over the next ten plus minutes. Moldoveanu scored 12 of his game high 18 points during this stretch as the Eagles took a commanding lead.

A Mitch McDonald jumper at 7:43 ended an 11-1 American run and the Black Knights started to cut into American's lead. With Army's best defenders Marcus Nelson and Josh Miller now on the floor the Eagles struggled to score from the field like they did in the first game. Over the last seven minutes of the first half American scored only one field goal, a three-point basket from Joe Hill, as Moldoveanu was held scoreless the rest of the first half following his torrid start. Army offense still wasn't clicking but they narrowed the Eagles lead to twelve, 31-19 at the half.

Army came out on fire the first five plus minutes of second half as they opened with a 13-4 run to cut American's lead to three points 35-32. Cleveland Richard, 11 points, led the charge as he hit two three point shots. Led by Stephen Lumpkins down low the Eagles extended their lead to nine points. Army battled back with a run of its own and after a Jeremy Hence low post basket they tied the score 48-48 with 4:02 left in game. Hence was fouled on the play but missed a chance for completing a three point play when he didn't convert the free throw.

Moldoveanu hit a three-point basket to give American the lead once again. Marcus Nelson missed two free throws with two minutes to go. After hitting on over 71% as a team on free throws the last four games Army picked a bad night to revert to their early season troubles from the charity stripe. The Black Knights hit only 7 of 14 free throws and it proved costly. With 53 seconds left, Tyrell Thompson was fouling beyond the arc. Thompson was clutch at the line converting all three free throws to narrow the Eagle lead to two points. American beat Army's pressure as Lumpkins layup gave them a .55-51 lead. Nathan Hedgecock kept Army hopes alive as he banked in a three point shot with 15 seconds left.

Army almost forced a turnover on the inbounds but the Eagles were able to call a timeout with eight seconds left. Marcus Nelson was forced to foul Nick Hendra on inbounds with five seconds left. After Hendra hit both free throws to increase American's lead to 57-54 Richard drove to top of key and missed his game tying three point attempt.

The loss drops the Army Black Knights record to 13-12 and (3-8) in Patriot League while American improves to (8-18), (5-6) in Patriot League. Army faces Navy at home in the Annual Star game this Saturday February 20 at 2 PM.

Notes:

Julian Simmons, Army's best shooter, was ill and only played three minutes.

Army finished their Patriot League road schedule a disappointing 1-7.

Army has never beaten American at Bender Arena since they joined the Patriot League

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