The box score blurted out one big number Thursday evening about American guard John Schoof, a big honking 50 in the sophomore’s minutes column.
One look at Schoof screamed much the same thing, only in more concise fashion. Schoof had bloodied and bruised nose to accompany a 73-70 double-overtime defeat of UMBC.
“If you saw his nose, it goes about three directions,” coach Jeff Jones said. “There’s no question he broke his nose. He didn’t blink. As a coach, I know I’m old-fashioned, but I admire that. I think his teammates are looking at him and saying ‘That’s a man there.’”
And an iron man at that, one the Eagles (4-5) so clearly need in the season’s early stages. Schoof was credited with 50 minutes —- though he did take an 87-second respite in the second half —- after back-to-back 40-minute outings on Saturday and Tuesday.
Neither was quite like Thursday’s marathon and the 48 hours of reflection that preceded it.
“I’m in good condition, but I’m definitely tired after that one,” Schoof said. “That was definitely a tough game.”
American was going to learn something about itself Thursday no matter the outcome. The Eagles have faced some limitations in the season’s early stages, the absence of a natural slasher only encouraging opponents to double down on forward Stephen Lumpkins and encourage a barrage of 3-pointers.
For a team in a perpetual one-bid conference like the Patriot League (and especially one not named Bucknell or Lehigh this season), November and December are about figuring things out. And Tuesday’s lethargic 55-50 loss at Howard demonstrated there was much for the Eagles to decipher.
“We were embarrassed,” Jones said. “We were outhustled and out-toughed, and that’s just inexcusable. You’re going to lose games here and there, but it should never be because of being outworked.”
American wasn’t going to let that happen again Thursday. Schoof surely wasn’t.
And so he rolled to a career-high 19 points, drilling 3-pointers (three of them) and free throws (all eight) and generally proving a nuisance on defense while helping keep UMBC’s Chase Plummer to four points over the first 36 minutes.
What else could be expected of a guard now averaging 37.6 minutes?
“It’s kind of status quo for him,” guard Daniel Munoz said. “He’s a super-tough kid and is never going to complain and just does whatever the team needs. Today was another perfect example of that. I don’t expect him to say anything about it because that’s just how he is.”
On many levels, it was a perfect moment of self-examination for American. At no point in the final 27 minutes was the margin more than four points in either direction. The Retrievers (2-7) made it difficult for Lumpkins to get involved. And things never came especially easy for the Eagles.
American would not make it through without a lasting reminder of the evening, as Schoof learned when Plummer put his head down and rammed into Schoof’s nose during overtime.
“I think I got the charge,” Schoof said.
Indeed he did. And the Eagles got a direly needed win, largely because of their (sort-of) 50-minute man.
“That was a man’s game in there for him,” Jones said. “He knocked down a couple 3s, big free throws, but he just made tough plays.”
—- Patrick Stevens