Men's Basketball Falls to Villanova in First Round of NCAA Tournament
The American University men's basketball team fell to Villanova on Thursday, 80-67, in NCAA Tournament First Round action at the Wachovia Center. Garrison Carr D led the Eagles with 22 pointers, while Derrick Mercer and Brian Gilmore scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, in the defeat.
Villanova (27-7) jumped out to an early 5-0 before a Mercer steal and layup got American (24-8) on the board. A pair of three-pointers by Mercer and Frank Borden cut the Villanova lead to 12-11 at the 15:15 mark of the first half. After the teams exchanged buckets, AU's Gilmore and Carr both connected from long-range to give American its first lead of the game, 19-17 with 11:47 to play in the opening stanza.
The lead went back-and-forth over the next several minutes until Carr caught fire from the beyond-the-arc, knocking down two more three-pointers to give AU a 27-24 lead at the under-eight minute media timeout in the first half.
After a Dante Cunningham basket for the Wildcats, Carr connected again, this time on a NBA-range three-pointer, to give the Eagles a 30-26 lead and force Villanova to call a timeout. This three-pointer by Carr was the 300th of his career, tying the Patriot League record for career treys with Army's Mark Lueking.
The Eagles continued to put pressure on the favored Wildcats, as Jordan Nichols converted on a bucket to gave the Eagles a six-point advantage, 32-26, at the under-four minute timeout of the first half.
Villanova responded with a 5-0 run coming out of the timeout to cut the AU lead to 32-31. However, the Eagles exploded with a 9-0 spurt to close the half to take a 41-31 lead into the locker room. During that run, Mercer had three field goals, and Gilmore knocked down a straight-away three-pointer in the half's final seconds.
In the first half, AU shot 48 percent from the field, and converted eight three pointers on 15 attempts (53 percent). AU held a plus-seven advantage in the turnover battle in the opening stanza, and as a result, outscored Villanova 20-4 in points off turnovers.
The second half began in the same fashion in which the first 20 minutes ended. Gilmore and Mercer scored on the Eagles' first two possessions to push the AU lead to 14, 45-31, the largest margin of the game.
The Wildcats fought back with 10 of the game's next 12 points to cut the AU advantage to six, 47-41. The pro-Villanova crowd rose to its feet before Carr's fifth three-pointer of the game extended American's lead back to nine. Carr's conversion gave him sole possession of the Patriot League record for career three's.
And Carr wasn't done. After a Villanova bucket, the Patriot League Tournament MVP knocked down a fade-away three-pointer from the corner to extend AU's lead back to 10, 53-43, with 12:27 remaining in the contest.
Villanova responded with a 19-2 run over the game's next 7:30 to take a 62-55 advantage, its first lead since 22-21 at the 10:22 mark of the first half. A Carr pull-up jumper at the 4:29 mark paused Villanova's momentum, and trimmed the Wildcats' lead to 62-57. The teams would trade baskets over the next two minutes, capped by an acrobatic Carr layup in traffic, to keep the margin at five, 66-61.
But it was too much Villanova down the stretch. The Wildcats scored the game's next eight points take a 13-point lead, 74-61, with under one minute remaining. Villanova would convert six free throws in the game's final minute to set the final score at 80-67.
Carr scored a team-high 22 points for the Eagles, including six-for-14 from three-point range. AU Seniors Mercer and Gilmore had 17 and 16 points, respectively. Villanova was led by Dwayne Anderson and Cunningham, each of whom scored 25 points to pace the Wildcats. The duo shot a combined 18 of 26 from the floor, and grabbed 15 total rebounds.
"I think that Villanova just wore us down. I think it's as simple as that," AU Head Coach Jeff Jones said after the game. "I'm proud of their effort...our kids came to compete and they did exactly that."
Carr completes his career at AU with 302 three-pointers, which sets new AU and Patriot League career records. His 40.9 career percentage from long-range (302-739) is the fourth-best in American basketball history. Carr's 1,412 career points is good for 13th on AU's all-time scoring list. For the season, Carr converted 114 three-pointers, second in PL.
Mercer made his 122nd career start as an Eagle and 124th overall appearance, both of which set new AU records. The Patriot League Player of the Year finished his career with 524 assists, placing him second in school history and third all-time in the Patriot League.