ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Freshman Delante Jones led the Eagles with 23 points to propel men's basketball to a 63-58 win at Navy on Wednesday night.
American (4-16, 2-6 PL) survived an early deficit and battled back against a tough defensive Midshipmen squad that entered the game leading the league in rebounding margin.
The Eagles finished the contest outrebounding the Mids, 31-25, with nine offensive boards. Defensively, American came away with six steals and two blocks, including a late rejection by freshman Andrija Matic after he was posted up by Will Kelly.
American's offense found a way to break Navy's 1-3-1 defense by spreading the ball around and using junior Jalen Rhea as an outside threat. Rhea came off the bench and finished with a career-high 15 points on 5-of-8 from long-range.
Senior Jesse Reed finished with a team-best five assists and added 12 points with half coming from the free throw line.
AU finished the contest shooting 43 percent from the field and 93 percent from the line. American also connected on nine three-pointers.
Neither team held a lead above double digits, but it was American who clawed its way back into the contest after trailing by nine in the opening minute.
Navy held American scoreless for nearly six minutes before Delante Jones hit a jumper at 14:11. The Eagles then cut the lead to three, 11-8, off back-to-back three-pointers by Jones and Jalen Rhea. AU took the lead Charlie Jones' three to cap off a 15-4 run by the visitors. The basket gave the Eagles their first lead, 15-13, with 5:37 left.
After five consecutive points by the Midshipmen, Rhea tied the game (18-18) with a corner three at 3:53. Navy took a four-point lead with two minutes left, but a pair from the outside by Delante Jones and Rhea put the Eagles up 26-254 at the break.
Delante Jones led the Eagles with 10 points at the half, followed by Rhea with nine. The Eagles shot 38 percent from the field and hit 6-of-13 from downtown.
American led for all but 30 seconds in the second half after a 6-0 run by the Midshipmen tied the game at 38-all with 11:18 left to play. A pair of free throws by senior Marko Vasic gave the Eagles their largest lead — 54-45 — but nearly a six-minute scoring drought allowed Navy back into the contest.
Reed put AU back up by four, 56-52, with 54 seconds remaining on an inside jumper. Navy threatened again with a three-point play by Tillman Dunbar, but late free throws by Matic sealed the contest for the Eagles.
American heads back on the road this weekend to meet Colgate on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Eagles will return to Bender Arena on Mon., Feb. 1 to take on Holy Cross in the rescheduled contest from last week. The game is the annual 'Phil Bender District Day' and the first 1,000 fans will receive a voucher for a Mike Brennan Bobblehead, presented by GEICO. All bobbleheads will be given out at the end of the contest against Holy Cross.