Five key plays: American 77, Army 66

American snapped its three-game losing streak and took control in the race for the fourth seed in the Patriot League tournament with a 77-66 win at Army Sunday. Here are five key plays/sequences from the game.

1. Second-chance points set the tone
American teams are not usually known for hitting the offensive boards and this Eagles team isn’t an exception, with the Eagles in the middle of the league in boarding 25.6% of their misses. But Sunday was an exception (as was the Colgate game). The Eagles grabbed a third of their misses (33.3%) and while they didn’t score a ton of second-chance points, they set the tone early and Stacy Beckton Jr. continued to show why he’s one of the best in the league at scoring on putbacks without coming down with the ball.

2. An American block party
How about this for a stat? American has six of the top 20 shot-blockers in the Patriot League, led by Beckton Jr.’s 4.48%. That’s insane! Not only that, but the Eagles are good at turning blocks into transition opportunities on the other end. Sunday was no exception.

3. American starts second half with 10-0 run
American led by just six at halftime despite the dominant early minutes, so getting off to a great start in the second half was critical. That’s exactly what the Eagles did, again forcing turnovers and scoring in transition. In no time, the Eagles’ advantage ballooned to 45-29 and before long it eclipsed 20.

4. Sa’eed Nelson continues to roll
There’s not a whole lot more to be said about Sa’eed Nelson, who with 26 points moved into 8th all-time on the American scoring list. He was incredibly efficient, too, shooting 10-for-15 from the field. American’s big push in the second half started with Nelson. On defense, he continues to catalyze. Nelson is now 2nd in the PL in scoring (conference-only) with 21.1ppg; 4th in O-rating (111.5); 16th in e-fg% (55.6%), which is really good for someone with his kind of usage (31.2%, 1st); 3rd in assist rate (33.7%); 1st in FT rate (60.5%); 12th in 2-point FG percentage (58.2%); 2nd in steal percentage (4.24%); and 1st in percentage of minutes played (91.8%).

5. American nearly collapses late again
For as good as American was for 36 minutes, the Eagles nearly threw away a game late — again. It’s no secret that the Eagles have struggled to close games, and Army was no different. If you watched Mike Brennan, he nearly tore his hair out as the Eagles — up 16 with 4 minutes left — turned the ball over multiple times and watched Army make three 3s in a 40-second span to get within four with more than a minute remaining. Credit American for making free throws from there and avoiding a last-second disaster. But finishing still clearly remains a huge issue for this team in late February. That’s a problem.