The Washington Times - January 7, 2012, 05:57PM


One long run ensured American would leave Bender Arena with one impressive victory.


It also illustrated just how the Eagles can secure even more wins deeper in conference play.

American routed Colgate 82-54, collecting a victory in its Patriot League opener with the assistance of an 18-0 run to close out the first half.

“It makes it easy on offense when you’re coming down and facing an unsettled situation and an unsettled defense,” coach Jeff Jones said. “We were getting stops and guys were making shots.”

Charles Hinkle scored 21 points for American (10-6, 1-0), while John Schoof added a career-best 18 points.

Guard Troy Brewer sat with a sprained ankle, and Jones said he would be “very conservative, very cautious” with the injury.

He wasn’t needed Saturday as the Eagles spread around the offense among several players against the listless Raiders (5-10, 0-1), who struggled mightily on defense while yielding  1.32 points per possession on American’s 62 trips down the court.

“It can’t be the Charles Hinkle Show,” Jones said. “If we try that, it isn’t going to work. Getting other guys to contribute is really key because we’re not really sure when we’re going to get Troy back, and until then we have to find a way to manufacture points. Today, we could do it.”

Hinkle pressed a bit early, and the Eagles weren’t initially sharp on offense as Colgate hung around. But the Eagles opened up a double-digit lead midway through the first half before the Raiders stabilized things.

Not for long, though, in large part because Colgate was rarely granted the chance at putbacks throughout the first half.

“We were playing real good on defense and I think the biggest thing was we were getting stops and finishing,” Hinkle said. “We were rebounding the ball and holding them to one shot.”

Eventually, the Eagles’ offense complemented their defensive prowess. American scored on nine of its last 11 trips before halftime, securing a 44-19 edge that eventually ballooned to 30 points after the break.

“My big thing that I’ve kept saying is ‘Forty minutes, 40 minutes, 40 minutes,’” Jones said. “We didn’t get 40 minutes today, but we probably got about as close as we have this year.”

Five other thoughts from the Eagles’ Patriot League opener …

* Schoof scores … Without Brewer, the Eagles received an offensive burst from Schoof, a noteworthy development since the freshman guard hadn’t scored in the last three games.

Schoof’s 18 points was a career-high and marked only his second double-digit scoring outing. He had 12 points against Georgetown on Dec. 17 —- coincidentally, another game when Brewer did not play.

Hinkle and Brewer, when healthy, will be American’s top perimeter scoring options the rest of the way. Yet the development of the 6-foot-5 Schoof could provide a significant element for the Eagles should he become a consistent option.

“We’re just hoping he can get comfortable,” Jones said. “He looked pretty comfortable out there today.”

* … and so does Bersch. Junior forward Mike Bersch tripled his season scoring output, connecting on two 3-pointers in the first half as part of the Eagles’ run heading into halftime. He added another 3-pointer in the closing minutes to finish with nine points in a season-high 10 minutes of work.

Bersch had only three points and 15 minutes entering Saturday.

* Second-chance payoff. A second half devoid of drama did include consecutive long possessions that helped squelch what little hope the Raiders had of making a comeback.

American constructed a possession of more than a minute, collecting an offensive rebound, milking clock and then finishing with a Blake Jolivette jumper. After blocking a Colgate shot, the sequence repeated again: A missed American shot followed up by an offensive rebound, a methodical working of the shot clock and a Schoof 3-pointer to make it 61-36.

* Clearing the bench. Freshman Kyle Kager and junior Jordan Borucki entered in the final two minutes, making their debuts for the Eagles. Jones used 14 players —- everyone on his roster except the injured Brewer.

* Up next. The Eagles visit Lehigh (12-4) on Wednesday in what should serve as a better barometer of their standing in the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks, one of the preseason favorites in the conference, played Holy Cross on Saturday.

—- Patrick Stevens