American University came into today’s game with an opportunity to get back to .500 in the conference. But Lafayette had other ideas. The Leopards would come into Tenleytown and walk away with a 84-79 overtime victory. The Leopards were led by Paulius Zalys’ 21 point, 7 rebound performance. Sa’eed Nelson paced the Eagles with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Both teams got off to a fast start but it was American that blinked first. Bedeviled by turnovers (11) in the first half, that included six in the last 7:51. The turnovers took the Eagles out of the rhythm they had early on. The Eagles would finish the half only making two of their last seven shots from the field. Stacy Beckton Jr. led the Eagles in the first half with 8 points.
Meanwhile, Lafayette got a team contribution on offense in the first half. Alex Petrie and Paulius Zalys finished the half with 7 points a piece. Leading scorer Justin Jaworski finished the half with six. Despite being out-rebounded 20-10 in the first half, the Leopards had a 33-28 lead at halftime.
The second half didn’t start off any better for the Eagles. A turnover led to a Lafayette layup. Following a Gasperini missed layup, Isaac Suffren would convert two free throws and the Leopards had their largest lead in the game, nine.
The Eagles would go on a mini-run closing the deficit to 41-38. The Leopards responded with a 6-0 run pushing the lead back to nine w/ 14:45 left.
But you can’t count of American not diverting from their system. Nelson would run off six straight points briefly giving the Eagles a 55-53 lead. The Leopards would respond with a run of their own. Petrie came down after the Nelson layup and hit a three pointer. After a Gasperini turnover, Isaac Suffren would make a layup and the Leopards were back up by three points.
Down 5 with 1:10 left, American would make a final push. Larry Motuzis would get a layup and cut it to three. After a missed Petrie three pointer, Sam Iorio would come down and hit a three pointer of his own to tie the game with 33 seconds left. Both teams would turn the ball over on their final possessions as the game headed to overtime.
Lafayette would take the lead on overtime and not relinquish it. The Leopards would go up by as much as 7 points in the extra period as AU could only manage one field goal.
Points: Nelson and Beckton – 18
Rebounds: Beckton – 8
Assists: Nelson – 4
Points: Zalys – 21
Rebounds: Jarrett and Zalys – 7
Assists: Zalys – 6