American defeated Lafayette 71-57 for its second Patriot League win of the season. Here are five key plays/sequences from the game.
1. Charlie Jones scores first nine points
From the opening tip, the normally reserved-offensively Charlie Jones put his imprint on the game. Charlie scored American's first nine points on a 3, two pull-up jumpers and a backdoor layup. "Just knowing when I'm open to be a threat and knock down/make shots," Charlie said afterward of his 18-point performance, which tied a career high, "hold my follow-through, trust my shot."
2. Matic and Paquin contribute off bench
American got nothing from its bench in its previous game vs. Army, but that wasn't the case against Lafayette. Andrija Matic and Alex Paquin were first-half sparks as American built its lead. Matic was the recipient of two Charlie Jones pinpoint passes, finishing after both. He also knocked down a 3. Paquin hit a corner 3 and made a strong driving layup. For the game, the Eagles' bench doubled Lafayette's, 22-11.
3. American gets ball inside to start second half
After a quiet first half in which he didn't score, Mark Gasperini got the ball early and often in the second half as American maintained its lead. Gasperini also once again showed his improved passing ability, finding Paquin in the corner for a 3. Most importantly, he was able to stay on the floor for 17 minutes in the half devoid of foul trouble. "Yeah, that's what we've been preaching to him — don't foul, don't foul," Mike Brennan said postgame. "Don't say this, but I don't care if the other team scores (laughing). That's not quite true, but I'd rather him be out there just to get experience, get touches. He threw some passes tonight, which is good — a couple backdoor passes."
4. Delante Jones goes off in second half
He didn't score in the first half, but Delante Jones put his offensive imprint on American's game midway through the second half when he kept Lafayette at bay by scoring 10 of 13 American points on a pair of wing 3s and two strong drives to the hoop. Afterward, Mike Brennan credited American's offense overall for getting the ball to Delante in prime scoring spots: "It's a little bit of Delante, but it's everybody else, too," Brennan said. "Everyone else has to stick with the offense. I thought he got more stuff tonight where somebody else is making a play and he's like the recipient of an open shot because someone else drives or Charlie's in the post kicking it out to him. And then it's a little bit easier for him to pick and choose his spots to go one on one."
5. The closing punch
Lafayette got within 59-54 late in the second half, but American responded with big baskets — a 3 from Jalen Rhea off a pass from Gasperini (don't leave Jalen open in a corner) and a strong Charlie drive to the hoop. From there, it was all academic. Not that Brennan was comfortable (see below) during any part of the game. Afterward, I asked him about seeming visibly frustrated throughout the win.
"I'm always visibly frustrated (laughing), you know," Brennan answered. "Nah. I keep telling them you want to win games and the record's important, but as long as we're improving that's the most important thing to me."