Once again, American comes into the Patriot League tournament as the top seed. This time, the Eagles will be trying to defend their title rather than trying to win their first. It’s a different kind of pressure than they faced a year ago when they were trying to go to their first NCAA tournament.
“Last year, all we heard about was [American has] never been before,” Garrison Carr said. “This year, we haven’t heard anything like that. People have only been saying, ‘Now you’ve got to win it again.’ Obviously, things have changed.”
American (21-7) takes on Lafayette (8-21) in Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. quarterfinal game at Bender Arena. The Eagles, who have never lost in the quarterfinal round, are riding a 10-game winning streak, but needed overtime to beat the Leopards on Saturday.
“I don’t want to say it’s more pressure [this year] because there was pressure last year,” Carr said. “Every game in this type of situation, the way the Patriot League tournament is, loser out, every game is pressure.”
The seven seniors on this AU team will always have the distinction of being the first players to take the Eagles to the NCAA tournament. But with that legacy comes increased expectations.
“I would say it’s a lot of pressure on us because we accomplished something last year, and as a senior, you want to do better than what you did the previous year,” Derrick Mercer said. “We have to realize every time we put the jersey on there’s always that opportunity that we’ll never wear it again.”
“Having seven seniors, starting five seniors, most of us being there last year and playing an integral role, yeah, the pressure’s a bit high, but we’re just trying to look at it the same way we did last year,” Brian Gilmore said. “Something very special could come from this team. We’ve had a great season so far and I think everyone expects to continue on and hopefully make it back to the [NCAA] tournament and hopefully win a game in the tournament.”
These players exude a quiet confidence, not arrogance or cockiness, but a strong belief in themselves. It is a quality that has served them well and brought about consistency to their season.
“That consistency is one of the reasons my nerves are so still right now,” Gilmore said. “There’s more of a calmness about this team, not getting so nervous going into these games, knowing that if we do the things we’re supposed to do that we’re not going necessarily to win, but put ourselves in a great situation where we’re able to win a game.”
March 4, 2009; 6:05 AM ET
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