American University men's basketball was victorious in its Patriot League opener at Bucknell Thursday night, 67-57. First year head coach Mike Brennan wins his first conference game as the Eagles win their fourth-straight league opener and snap an eight-game winless streak against the Bison.
Senior center Tony Wroblicky had a career performance with a personal best 24 points with 11 boards, six blocks, six assists and two steals. The fourth-year big man went 8-of-12 from the field while knocking down an identical 8-of-12 mark from the free throw line.
"It was a great win for our guys, playing on the road against a program that has won a lot of games here," said Brennan. "Tony stepped up the challenge that we presented him and have been putting in front of him all season. We are happy with the win, but it is just one game. We need to continue to improve and start preparing for our next game on Sunday at Holy Cross."
American led from wire-to-wire, holding off several second half runs from the Bison after holding Bucknell to 20 points in the first half.
The Eagles used solid shooting (53.8 FG%) and a 32-16 advantage in scoring in the paint while holding Bucknell to 18-of-54 (33.3 FG%) shots from the field, using its team defense to limit Bison leading scorer Cameron Ayers to only seven makes on 21 total attempts.
AU guards Darius Gardner and John Schoof each scored 11 points in the contests, with Schoof netting two triples and Gardner adding three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Each junior played all 40 minutes in the game.
The victory is American's first in Lewisburg since February of the 2008-09 season, when coach Brennan was an assistant on the Eagles staff.
The Eagles came out hot in the contest, hitting their first three shots for a 7-0 lead, forcing a Bucknell timeout. After a Kyle Kager 3-pointer a Gardner field goal, Wroblicky scored six straight points as American built a seven-point lead, 11-4.
Buckenll began to close in, getting to with six, but Schoof stepped up for AU, rising up for his first 3-pointer and a 19-10 American lead. The sequence repeated itself just a few minutes later as a 9-4 Bison run was answered by a Schoof 3-pointer with 4:17 to put AU back on top, 26-19.
American went into the break with a 10-point advantage, it's high of half, holding Bucknell to 28.6 percent from the field, allowing only one offensive rebound and outscoring the Bison in the paint, 16-4.
AU built its biggest lead of the game thus far to start the second half, 35-22, on a layup by Wroblicky. The Eagles put constant pressure on the Bison, forcing Bucknell to five team fouls in the first three minutes of the second stanza.
Wroblicky scored seven-straight points for the Eagles in a four-minute span, making a 14-point lead for AU, 40-26. The Eagles went on to hit a 17-point advantage on a nice drive and kiss off the glass by Gardner, 47-30.
Bucknell fought back however, using a 12-0 run, to close within five of AU, 47-42, with 6:30 remaining, and forced an American timeout.
It was Kager who ended the drought with a drive to draw a foul, knocking down both attempts which ended over a six-minute scoring absence for the Eagles.
Bucknell continued to fight, using the 3-pointer and fouls to close in on AU, but American knocked down 9-of-10 free throws in the final 46 seconds to close out the victory.
The Eagles will have a quick turnaround, flying up to Worcester, Mass., to face the Crusaders of Holy Cross on Sunday, January 5 at 1 p.m.