Sports

Men’s basketball bested by meticulous Eagles’ slow-paced offense

American holds Bears to just 21 points in second half, cruises to comfortable 66-49 victory

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, December 5, 2014

American University rode the strength of a 16-point second half advantage to take down the men’s basketball team Wednesday at the Pizzitola Center. The methodical Eagles slowed down the pace of the game, forcing the Bears to defend for the entirety of the shot clock.

“The story of this game was their offensive execution and our lack of offensive execution, especially in the second half,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04.

Bruno opened up the game with a clear edge in size. The co-captain duo of Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 and Rafael Maia ’15 caused problems for the Eagles down low. American’s starting power forward, sophomore Charlie Jones, is listed at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds and was forced to guard the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Kuakumensah.The reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year showed off his prowess on the other side of the ball, scoring nine of the team’s first 15 points and manhandling Jones on the block.

“We did a pretty good job early of making an effort to get the ball inside, where I thought we had an advantage,” Martin said, but added “They did a good job of collapsing the paint, especially in the second half.”

But as the half progressed, American began to impose its style on the game. The Eagles’ offense is built upon the principles of the Princeton offense, which emphasizes motion, pick-and-rolls and back-door cuts to keep a defense on its heels. The team plays a four-out lineup, surrounding center Zach Elcano with four shooters at all times.

Elcano, at nearly seven feet tall, set solid screens and was occasionally fed the ball when he was able to gain favorable positioning against Kuakumensah. He used a deft righty hook shot to rack up 13 points on the night.

The rest of the Eagles fed off of Elcano, leading the Bears through multiple picks by the towering junior. American used at least 20 seconds on nearly every possession, and while Bruno often defended well early in the shot clock, eventually the Eagles would find a hole and exploit it.

“I was disappointed with our inability to guard them. It was a low possession game, and they’re very good with their execution,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of teams that have a hard time guarding these guys.”

American’s guard-heavy offense forced Martin to limit the amount of time Maia and Kuakumensah shared on the floor. At least one of the two was on the floor at all times, but the captains played just 16 minutes together, two-thirds of which came when Jones was playing. As soon as Jones came off the floor, so too did one of Bruno’s bigs, diminishing the team’s size advantage. Jones wasn’t a threat to score so the bigs could guard him on the perimeter, but Mark Vasic, who replaced Jones, had too quick a trigger for Maia or Kuakumensah and Martin was forced to pull one.

Bruno went into the half down just one point, but American looked the better team on both ends of the floor. That point was driven home in the second 20 minutes of action, when the Eagles held Bruno to a lowly 28 percent from the field, including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.
“We got some good looks from the perimeter, but we just didn’t make them,” Martin said, “When you’re not getting stops, missing open shots, missing free throws and turning the ball over, it compounds itself.”

Leland King ’17 and J.R. Hobbie ’17, Bruno’s spark plugs off the bench, were held largely in check. Hobbie had a number of looks from deep but made just 1-for-6 three-pointers. King only played 23 minutes but pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds, to go along with his 11 points.

The Bears will play their penultimate 2014 home game Saturday, when Ocean State rival Bryant visits the Pizzitola Center.