American beat Loyola 74-68 Wednesday night, its third straight win. The Eagles improved to 11-9, 5-4 in the Patriot League. Here are five key plays/sequences from the game.
1. First-half runs by both teams
The opening minutes were characterized by quick spurts by both teams. First, Loyola used careless live-ball turnovers by American to quickly turn a 9-9 game into a 19-9 cushion. Andrew Kostecka got going during the run, including almost throwing down a highlight-reel dunk that resulted in two free throws. But American responded, led by Jacob Boonyasith (more on him later) and aggressive drives to the rim. In no time, the margin was back to a point, 19-18.
2. Sam Iorio goes down and then out
With 8 minutes left in the half, American’s second-leading scorer and high-minutes man went up for a layup, missed it, and then collided with the arm of Loyola’s KaVaughn Scott as he came down. It didn’t look good on a computer monitor, and it was no surprise that Iorio spent the rest of the game on American’s bench — at times with his head in his hands. We don’t have an update yet on his condition, but if you’re an Eagles fan you know how brutal the Eagles’ recent history with concussions has been (including Marvin Bragg missing his second straight game Wednesday with one).
3. Boonyasith and Diallo fill in nicely
With Ioro and Bragg out, American needed to utilize its depth, and Boonyasith and C.B. Diallo made huge contributions off the bench. The freshman had a career-high 13 points and made hustle plays, too, including a save that led to a layup for Diallo. And the senior, who’s played very sparingly, scored a season-high eight points mostly off alert plays. American doesn’t win this game without the duo.
4. Mark Gasperini’s career night
American took advantage of undersized Loyola from the get-go, and the junior big man was the catalyst. Gasperini was 10-13 from the field, creating position deep in the paint, catching it as well as he has all season, and finishing with both hands and from both sides of the basket.
5. Loyola misses 3s and American makes FTs to end it
So how did American close this one to earn its third straight victory? I would say it was a confluence of Loyola missing a trio of wide-open 3s (during a stretch when American was rushing its offense) and then the Eagles — after a poor start from the free-throw line — icing the game by making their last 11. Whatever the method, the bottom line is that American found a way to win a road league game while being undermanned. Next up: Holy Cross at home Saturday.