NCAA BASKETBALL: Saltsburg native Reed, American punch ticket to NCAA tournament
Jesse Reed and his teammates on the American University men’s basketball team didn’t feel disrespected when the Patriot League preseason coaches’ poll had them picked to finish ninth in the 10-team conference.
Quite the opposite, actually.
Reed and the Eagles figured they got what they deserved coming off a 10-20 season and with few proven players.
But, it turns out, Reed and the Eagles got the last laugh and an invite to the big dance.
American defeated top-seeded Boston University, 55-36, in the Patriot League tournament championship game Wednesday night in Boston to prove the preseason poll wrong and punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament.
“I mean, we knew we were picked ninth, and we felt disrespected whenever that first came out,” Reed said, “but then we realized we hadn’t proven ourselves. We hadn’t done anything. We had a new coach, we had a bunch of new guys in the rotation. We were basically a new team. So we really didn’t prove ourselves to be any better than what they predicted.”
American (20-12) will be making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009, the last time the Eagles won the conference tournament.
“It’s so hard to describe right now,” Reed said. “It’s just an amazing feeling.”
Reed said this is one of the reasons he choose American over other schools, to have the chance to play in the biggest spectacle in college sports, March Madness.
“That’s exactly it,” he said. “I knew whenever I was getting recruited there, that they won back-to-back conference championships in 2008 and 2009 and I knew they had a good program then, I knew if we got all the right pieces and worked together, we could do some special stuff. And fortunately enough, we were able to link together some wins here at the end. We were able to pull it out, and now we’re going dancing.”
He added: “I think it might sink in on selection Sunday. I think.”
A sophomore, Reed stepped into the starting lineup this season, and he’s delivered.
He is the Eagles’ leading scorer with 13.9 points per game. He is third on the team among the regulars in field goal percentage at 51.2 percent (148 of 289).
A guard known for his scoring, Reed also averages 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
Against Boston University on Wednesday, Reed played all 40 minutes and finished with nine points and five rebounds. More than his statistics, Reed’s enthusiasm sparked the Eagles.
With American leading 28-20 early in the second half, Boston was on a fast break and looking for easy points to gain some momentum following a listless 16-point first half. Trailing on the play, Reed never gave up and came up with a block from behind to prevent a sure layup.
Minutes later, the Eagles had a double-digit lead and they never relinquished it.
It was part of a stout defensive performance by the Eagles, who held Boston to a season low in points.
“We defended right away from the start,” Reed said. “We just locked in. We were ready to go, and we were able to pull it out.
“The mindset was win or go home, that was basically it. We knew that we had to win this game to have a chance to play in the postseason like we want to and play in March Madness, play in the NCAA tournament.”
The NCAA selection show is Sunday.