Moldoveanu is clutch at the end for Eagles

Since American University entered the Patriot League in 2001, Army has never quite measured up to the Eagles. It was more of the same Wednesday night at Bender Arena as the Black Knights used what amounted to a five-guard lineup and fell just short, 65-62.

In extending its home winning streak to 12 games over Army, AU got clutch play from senior forward Vlad Moldoveanu (21 points, 11 rebounds), who scored five points in the final 44 seconds.

It was another close call against the Black Knights. Their last three losses at Bender have come by a combined seven points.

AU at Holy Cross
When » Saturday, 2 p.m.
Where » Hart Recreation Center, Worcester, Mass.
After starting 1-13, Holy Cross (4-14, 3-1) has risen in Patriot League play behind 6-1 G Devin Brown (13 ppg) and 6-9 F Andrew Keister (11.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg). The Crusaders got their most decisive win this year, 71-50, at Navy on Wednesday night as 6-8 Eric Obeysekere had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll definitely take it,” said AU coach Jeff Jones. “They create some difficult match-ups. They play small ball.”

Late in the game, Jones noticed his 6-8 junior center, Stephen Lumpkins matched up on Army’s point guard.

Army’s quintessential David vs. Goliath moment came late, when the smallest man on the floor, 5-foot-7 Mitch McDonald, snatched the ball cleanly from the tallest, the 6-9 Moldoveanu.

But AU (13-6, 3-1) had the last laugh. After Army (10-9, 2-2) took a 58-56 lead on a driving layup by senior Jeremy Hence (18 points), AU junior guard Troy Brewer (6 points, 5 rebounds) answered with a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Eagles the lead for good.

Moldoveanu made it stick with an up-and-under move in the low post that gave AU a 61-58 edge. In the final 30 seconds, he converted 3 of 4 free throws.

“The biggest thing we did was we really rebounded down the stretch,” said Jones. “Finding a way to win is big. It’s a long haul.”

AU took control during a 9-minute span that bridged the halves in which Army failed to score from the field. Closing the first half with 10 straight points, AU turned a 29-22 deficit into a 32-29 lead. Senior guard Nick Hendra (12 points, 5 rebounds) highlighted the run with a steal and a breakaway dunk.

“I almost missed that dunk,” said Hendra. “ I just try to bring the aggression, bring the energy, whatever. Two points is two points.”

Army stayed close behind 6-5 sophomore Ella Ellis (21 points, 5 rebounds), but had no one to contend inside with 6-8 junior Stephen Lumpkins (16 points, 9 rebounds), who helped AU to a 37-27 edge on the boards.

Army rarely had a player on the floor taller than 6-5. The Black Knights were in constant motion on offense, flying around the perimeter, and looking for threes. Army ranks No. 4 in the nation, averaging 9.7 three-pointers per game. But AU limited the Black Knights’ opportunities to 17, their second-lowest figure in a game this year. They made six (35 percent).

Jones was happy with the defense, but the Eagles, the preseason favorite in the Patriot League, are expecting to play better.

“We get out to six, seven, eight point leads, we kind of struggle to get the knockout punch,” said Hendra. “We haven’t beat a team this year by 20 points. It would be nice to get a win like that eventually.”

Notes: AU struggled at the free-throw line, hitting 15 of 29 (52 percent).