Crucial Contest Concludes Regular Season with Tournament Seeding on the Line

Crucial Contest Concludes Regular Season with Tournament Seeding on the Line

Game #29 • American (7-21, 4-13 PL) at Loyola (14-14, 8-9 PL)
Sat., Feb. 25, 2017 • 12 p.m. • Baltimore, Md. • Reitz Arena (2,100)
All-Time Record: Loyola, 46-45
Last Meeting: Loyola 68, American 66 — Dec. 30, 2016
StreamPLN — Gary Lambrecht (PXP), Jim Chivers (Color), Bob Trosset (Sideline)
RadioHSRN (Sirius 135, XM 204) — Dan Laing (PXP), Muhammad Bashir (Color)
Live Stats

American Game Notes
Loyola Game Notes

WASHINGTON — 
The American men's basketball team will conclude the regular season on Saturday afternoon at Reitz Arena in Charm City. Patriot League Tournament seedings are still in play.

News, Notes, and Storylines

PATRIOT LEAGUE SCENARIOS: With one game remaining, the Eagles can finish either ninth or tenth heading into the Patriot League Tournament which begins on Tuesday. Out of 32 possible scenarios, there are 25 that put American as the No. 9 seed at No. 8 Army West Point. The remaining seven keep the Eagles in the Empire State, but further north at Colgate in the 7/10 matchup. American can clinch the No. 9 seed with a win over Loyola and a Lafayette loss at Colgate. If both teams win or lose, American could clinch the No. 9 seed if Navy remains in front of Holy Cross in the standings.

ALL-TIME SERIES RECORD: Loyola has a 46-45 all-time series lead over American after the Grounds' victory in late December. In the previous six, Loyola has a 4-2 edge.  In last season's finale, American came away with a last-second victory that pushed AU out of the opening round and into a quarterfinals contest as the sixth-seed.

LOYOLA SCOUT: Loyola is seeking to get out of the first round after falling to eventual PL Champion Holy Cross in the 8/9 matchup. Loyola is led offensively by Jarred Jones (15.2) and Andre Walker (15.1). Cam Gregory has been a big improvement inside for G.G. Smith's team. Gregory is third in scoring at 9.3 points and leads the team in rebounds at 7.1 per game. The trio had a solid performance in the one-point loss to Holy Cross on Wednesday. Walker led all scorers with 17 points and made 5-of-11 from the outside with five rebounds and four assists. Jones led the team with 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds with three on the offensive side.  Gregory's had 12 points  — from inside the paint — and led the squad with nine rebounds.

EAGLES REWIND VS. LOYOLA: • Sa'eed Nelson had a chance at a buzzer-beater but Loyola's Andre Walker blocked the three-pointer to give the Greyhounds a 68-66 win over American to open Patriot League play in late December. Nelson led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-13 from the field. This was the seventh game this season that Nelson played all 40 minutes. Mark Gasperini had another solid performance in the paint and finished with 18 points and five rebounds. Delante Jones added 11 points but fouled out in 33 minutes. The Eagles shot 53 percent from the floor and made 12-of-19 at the line. Jarred Jones led the Greyhounds with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Walker contributed 18 points and seven assists and had the final defensive stop for the visitors. Cam Gregory had 13 for Loyola and was perfect 5-of-5 from the field. The Greyhounds shot 57 percent from the field and connected on 15-of-19 from the charity stripe. Loyola held the lead for the entire first half and went into the locker room ahead 33-29. Nelson had the Eagles within one (22-21) after a layup at 7:55. In the second, American tied the game at 52-all  after a three by Delante Jones. The Greyhounds answered with a 7-0 run and took a 10-point lead, 66-56, after a pair of free throws by Chancellor Barnard at 1:43. American battled back on a 9-2, holding the Greyhounds to a pair of free throws by Jones. Charlie Jones hit the backend of a pair to cut the game to a single possession. Loyola's chance to increase the lead was stopped by a Gasperini block and rebound. The Eagles called timeout with seven seconds left. Nelson drove up the lane and took the desperation shot which was blocked to end the contest.

WHAT IT WILL TAKE FOR AN AU WIN: American will need to utilize a bigger lineup when facing the Greyhounds. In their previous contest against Navy, the Eagles started Matt Cimino at power forward and Mark Gasperini at center. This allowed AU to run with a three forward combination. Charlie Jones slid over to the small forward role. Loyola generally will run a three guard offense, but with American adding Cimino into the mix over Lonnie Rivera, it gave the Eagles a better passing forward and three-point shooter. In the first meeting, American saw rookies Sa'eed Nelson and Mark Gasperini combine for 40 of the 66 points scored. Delante Jones added 11 points to the mix.

 KEY MATCHUP - PART II: The major battle in the second edition of the AU-Loyola rivalry will be Mark Gasperini and Cam Gregory. This will be particularly important for American. In the last three games, Gasperini has averaged 14.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. His minutes per game has also increased. In those three games, Gasperini is at 32.2 minutes per game. Gregory had 13 points and five rebounds in the first meeting.

BREAKING DOWN THE NAVY WIN: Sa'eed Nelson led the American men's basketball team with 19 points to give the Eagles a 74-58 win over Navy on Wednesday evening at Alumni Hall. American shot 61 percent from the floor, connected 5-of-11 from the outside and dominated at the line shooting 18-of-30. Mark Gasperini added 13 points while Matt Cimino and Charlie Jones dropped 12. James Washington had 10 points off the bench. Shawn Anderson had 17 points for Navy, who shot 5-of-28 from the outside and missed its first 10 from deep. American led 33-27 at the break after jumping out to a 9-2 lead with three straight three's by Matt Cimino and Delante Jones. The Eagles led by 10 (27-17) with 7:06 left of Charlie Jones' second long-distance basket of the half. Navy rattled off a quick pair from the outside to begin the second and cut the deficit to one (37-36) on its third three of the half. American fired back with a 7-0 run in 1:15 to retake an eight-point lead, 44-36, with 14:49 left. The visitors then pushed the lead back to double digits and led 65-51 on a layup by Nelson with 4:05 left. Poor shooting by Navy in the final minutes allowed AU to hold the commanding lead. Navy outrebounded American, 42-35 and grabbed 23 offensive boards. The Eagles dominated in the paint, 34-28, despite a double-double from Tom Lacey, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. 

BRENNAN IN THE PL TOURNAMENT: Tuesday's PL Quarterfinal match will be the ninth game that head coach Mike Brennan has coached during his time at American. Brennan is 6-2 in the PL Tournament having won in his first season. In his second season, the Eagles advanced to the PL Championship before a heartbreaking loss to Lafayette on the road. Last season, the Eagles knocked off No. 3 Boston and went to the Semifinals before a tough loss to PL Finalist Lehigh. If American meets Colgate in the 7/10 game, Brennan is 2-0 against the Raiders. Under coach Brennan, American has not faced potential opponent Army West Point nor Bucknell (possible quarterfinal opponent) or Loyola and Navy. 

JUST BREATHE: Throughout the season, Sa'eed Nelson has shuttled back-and-forth between first and second nationally in minutes per game played with St. Bonaventure's Matt Mobley. In the past four games, coach Brennan has allowed his floor general to breathe thus Nelson fell into third place nationally in mpg at 37:57. Northeastern's T.J. Williams is now second, averaging 38:04 mpg. Nelson has averaged 36.0 minutes over the previous four games while still averaging 14.25 points per game. Nelson still leads the Patriot League in overall and conference-only minutes per game at 38.0 and 38.4.