Carr speeds ahead, carries Eagles again

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Midway through the first half of the Patriot League tournament title game, American guard Garrison Carr created his own space and drilled an open jumper. Immediately afterward, Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard called a timeout.

That pattern continued. Three other times, a Carr 3-pointer forced Willard to call a timeout.

“I was looking for a net to throw around him,” Willard said. “We were just out of position so many times, even when we went man-to-man, we were losing him.”

Despite the interruptions, Carr never fell out of his groove Friday, scoring 24 points to lead AU to a 73-57 victory and back to the NCAA tournament. Carr was 9-for-12 from the field and 6-for-8 from 3-point range, earning tournament MVP honors for the second straight year and becoming the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers.

It was yet another example of the Eagles’ go-to scorer playing like it.

“This is a big forum,” Carr said. “It was a championship game, and you wanna save the best for situations like this.”

The situation was a perfect one for AU’s leading scorer. Coach Jeff Jones said Carr had to leave practice Tuesday with an ankle injury. According to Jones, Wednesday brought Carr’s best practice of the season.

Even though the Crusaders held Carr scoreless for the first nine-plus minutes, their concerted effort to keep him under wraps fell apart as AU slashed through the lane for easy baskets.

“They kinda had to make a decision: Are they gonna stay as tough on the perimeter as they were, or were they gonna defend the lane?” Jones said. “When we got those, Garrison got - not a lot - but he got a couple looks.”

He made those looks count. His first salvo of the second half caused Willard to burn another timeout; less than three minutes later, Carr drilled 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give AU an 18-point lead.

Above all else, Carr’s shots were timely as the Bender Arena crowd erupted and Willard wondered what his team had to do to keep him off the scoreboard.

“I think we did a great job getting him the ball at the right times,” senior guard Derrick Mercer said. “If you leave a great shooter like that open with time and space to hit a shot, he’s definitely gonna hit that shot because he’s a great shooter.”

Fortunately for AU, Carr didn’t miss when he got even a little space. The scoreless stretch might have taken a toll if it continued much longer, but Carr felt his confidence growing as soon as he ended that drought.

“Once I was able to get the first one to fall down, after that everything else was much easier,” Carr said. “I felt that I would be able to help the team with any open looks I was getting. All the credit goes to my teammates.”

While his teammates did help - Brian Gilmore added 18, and Mercer 13 - the Eagles looked to Carr to deliver only the program’s second trip to the NCAA tournament.

And on the conference’s biggest stage, they got just what they expected from him.

“That’s Garrison Carr for you,” Gilmore said. “He wants to take the big shots in the big games.”

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