American fell 70-55 to Lehigh to drop to 5-18, 2-10 in the Patriot League. Here are five key plays/sequences from the game. Video cutups by Sam Healy.
1. Kempton and Gasperini trade offensive punches early
The early stages of the game were all about the big men. Lehigh established Tim Kempton on the first possession and he scored 10 of Lehigh's first 23 points to help the Mountain Hawks grab a double-digit lead. But Mark Gasperini held his own, scoring 10 points and staying on the floor with just one first-half foul to keep the Eagles in the game.
2. American's matchup zone slows down Lehigh
Mike Brennan has talked all year about this American team not being ready to play zone and he's not a zone guy, but this can't be denied — the Eagles' matchup look in the first half slowed down Lehigh. Just watch these five possessions: all outside jumpers and a turnover. American mostly went away from the look in the second half. Here's what Brennan had to say about it:
"We did (use) it in the second half. They were just better at attacking it. It slowed them down certainly in the first half. I don't think at the end of the day it's an answer for a full game. At some point you gotta guard."
3. American ends first half on 8-2 run
In what I thought was an ill-advised move, Lehigh went to a 2-3 zone that American deftly sliced up. Additionally, the Eagles were opportunistic, turning Lehigh turnovers and a big-time Charlie Jones block into points on the other end. AU had to feel good being down just four, 30-26, at the break.
4. American can't get Gasperini going in second half
Lehigh adjusted defensively in the second half, not allowing Gasperini to catch the ball anywhere close to the basket and teasing him with help defenders. The big man struggled against the new look and AU's offense sputtered as Lehigh grew its lead. "I thought in the first half he was aggressive and was able to score," Mike Brennan said. "I thought in the second half we didn't get him the ball as deep and he was trying to do too much of that and not pass so it's a balance that — it's not easy."
5. Lehigh runs away with game
Lehigh's hard enough to guard in the half court with Kempton and Kahron Ross (game-high 19 points) having a game like he did, but midway through the second half some long AU misses and turnovers got Lehigh's running game going, Kyle Leufroy inserted himself, and the Mountain Hawks showed the explosiveness they're capable of to quickly put the game away