By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
After a weekend that featured a 102-61 blowout against Crown College and a much cagier 98-88 affair against Union College, the Eagles are off to their best start to a season since they went 5-0 in their first five games of 2001-02.
The game against Crown was useful for head coach Will Shouse as the team gets broken in. “[It’s about] hard work, no matter who we’re playing,” Shouse said after the game. “It took us a few minutes there to wake up, but once we did we turned it on.” The Eagles led 52-17 at halftime, which allowed Shouse to rotate in some different players and “save some of those guys’ legs” for the game against Union.
Every man on Shouse’s roster got into the game against Crown, leading to 60 points total from the bench. “Early in the season those lessons can be learned, and it’s much easier to learn them through a win than a loss,” Shouse said.
His team needed to put those lessons into practice when they took on Union last Saturday, Nov. 8. The Bulldogs, who were ranked 16th going into the game, were averaging 100 points per game while holding their opponents to an average of 43.5. Union grabbed hold of the game early, rushing out to a 12-2 lead. The Bulldog’s senior Deante Johnson dominated the paint early on. The 6’8 center had 12 points in the first half and was consistently causing problems for the Eagles on offense and defense. Union kept a healthy lead for much of the second half as Asbury struggled to have the same aggression and efficiency they had had against Crown the night before.
With 7:32 left in the first half, the Eagles hit a turning point. Down 37-27, the Eagles slowly began clawing their way back into the game, going on a scoring run that got them within three points of Union with 1:43 left to play. With under a minute to go, junior Todd Jefferson hit a three to bring the teams level before sophomore Kristian Morgan (20 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist) was fouled and made his free throw to put the Eagles up 48-47 going into halftime.
There was always the danger of losing momentum when going into halftime, but the Eagles were quick to pick up where they left off, with juniors Jordan Gilbert (17 pts, 1 Reb, 5 Ast) and Kyle Lamb (22 pts, 7 reb, 5 ast) both hitting threes in the half’s opening minutes to keep the Asbury lead alive.
A lot of help came from the free throw line. Union gave up 24 points from free throws. This was compounded with the fact that two of Union’s biggest players, Johnson and the 6’7 forward Fitzgerald White, were at four fouls apiece with over eight minutes left to play.
Union had one last chance at making a comeback when they were within two points with 3:00 left to play, but another three from Jordan was enough to prevent a comeback. The Eagles will play in the Huntington Tournament against Purdue University-Calumet on Nov. 14 at 3:30 p.m.