Here are five key plays/sequences from American’s season-opening 78-75 overtime win over George Mason.
1. Establishing Mark Gasperini
The big man hadn’t played a game since February 2017, but he didn’t show any rust. American went to their big man on the first possession and didn’t forget about him the rest of the game, either. Against an athletic GMU team, Gasperini scored on a variety of jump hooks, a beautiful up-and-under in crunch time as the shot clock expired, and he had the aplomb to know the time and hit what proved to be a huge buzzer-beater from 30-plus feet to end the first half.
2. Rebounding problems
You can bet the Eagles are working on boxing out leading up to Monday’s game at Northwestern. Even with its biggest lineup in a few years, the Eagles struggled to keep the high-flying Patriots off the glass. GMU rebounded 16 of its 37 misses for an insane ORB rate of 43%.
3. The end of regulation
You talk about a crazy set of plays. First, Sa’eed Nelson appears to fall down and probably should’ve been called for traveling. But he’s instead able to get rid of the ball and Gasperini is going in for a game-clinching dunk, until he misses (forced possibly by the block attempt by A.J. Wilson). After two GMU free throws, AU had a chance to win and at first Nelson appeared to be fouled on the perimeter by Otis Livingston II. No call. Then he went to the hoop and it looks like his game-winning shot attempt was blocked. Gasperini missed a put-back attempt, too. That’s a lot that din’t go right. Momentum was clearly with GMU heading into OT.
4. The two biggest possessions
American fell down 74-70 with under two minutes left in OT and looked gassed. Mike Brennan said as much postgame. After a timeout, Sam Iorio saved AU possession after a Stacy Beckton miss by hustling after a rebound and deflecting the ball off GMU. Then AU ran a beautiful set for a corner Marvin Bragg 3 (Bragg finished 3-for-5 from deep). On the next possession, Nelson seized up a mismatch Ian Boyd, drove and finished with a finger roll over Boyd plus the foul. While Nelson struggled at the line most of the night, he made the biggest one for a 76-74 lead.
5. Sa’eed’s last two defensive stands
Livingston II, preseason first team A-10, is one of the quickest guards Nelson is going to play against, and on the last two possessions Nelson did his best to stay in front of the jitterbug and contest his shots. While the last look was open, Livingston had to work for it and the shot bounced harmlessly off the front rim. Nelson clearly won the battle of the point guards (24 points, 4 assists, 4 steals). Livingston was held to 10 points with five turnovers.