The Washington Times - February 10, 2012, 09:30AM

As American ventured into Patriot League play, no one foresaw an 18-point, 17-rebound outing out of center Tony Wroblicky – including Wroblicky.

“Not at all,” Wroblicky said. “I knew I could score and help the team in different ways, but this is kind of crazy.”

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The sophomore put up that line while tossing in four blocks in Thursday’s 71-62 defeat of Lehigh at Bender Arena as the Eagles seized sole possession of second place in the Patriot.

Troy Brewer added 17 points for the Eagles (16-8, 7-2), who visit Holy Cross (10-13, 4-5) on Saturday.

The emergence of at least a steady offensive game from Wroblicky, though, would carry great value for American. After all, the Eagles have played without an interior presence on offense for most of the season.

That was the price of Vlad Moldoveanu’s graduation and Stephen Lumpkins’ decision to pursue a professional baseball career. While coach Jeff Jones plugged Charles Hinkle into Moldoveanu’s spot, finding scoring in the low post was more challenging.

Wroblicky averaged only 7.1 minutes as a freshman, a number that figured to increase a little even if Lumpkins was still around. However, he’s played more out of necessity, with improvement arriving in spurts.

“It’s been up and down,” Jones said. “One step forward, maybe plateau, maybe one step back and two steps forward. We pushed him really hard but at the same time tried to be very positive with him and let him know we need him and believe in him.”

Of that, there’s no doubt. For a time, it seemed American would have to settle for a defense-oriented player who provided a modest offensive contribution. And while double-digit scoring nights against Army and Lafayette hinted he was getting better, Thursday was a crucial time for a memorable game.

Wroblicky had three straight baskets in the game’s opening sequence, and later added three straight layups late in the first half as American seized the lead for good.

He was strong in the final two minutes of the game, collecting four points, three rebounds and a block.

“I’ve struggled this season a lot offensively, and tonight everything just came together,” Wroblicky said. “I was scoring and I was able to rebound. I’ve gotten better offensively, but tonight was obviously a culmination.”

Wroblicky finished with career-highs in points, rebounds, field goals made (eight) and field goals attempted (13). He also collected his first double-double in 54 career games.

“He’s been coming on, but I can’t say I expected an 18-point, 17-rebound effort out of him at any point this year,” Jones said. “It was great to get that.”

Patrick Stevens