Moldoveanu’s hot shoot­ing sparks Ea­gles

For­ward’s ca­reer-high 39 points seal AU win in Pa­triot League opener

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - BY KATHY OR­TON or­tonk@wash­post.com

Amer­i­can for­ward Vlad Moldoveanu claims he usu­ally doesn’t play his best bas­ket­ball when his mother, Carmen To­cala, and fam­ily friend Ghe­o­rghe Mure­san, the for­merWash­ing­ton Bul­lets player, are in the stands.

To­cala made the trip from Ro­ma­nia to watch her son play Satur­day and was joined by fel­low Ro­ma­ni­anMure­san at the Ea­gles’ game at Ben­der Arena, where they were treated to a dom­i­nat­ing per­for­mance byMoldoveanu.

The se­nior for­ward scored 29 of his ca­reer-high 39 points in the sec­ond half and fin­ished with 12 re­bounds for his fourth ca­reer dou­ble-dou­ble in Amer­i­can’s 8275 vic­tory over de­fend­ing Pa­triot League cham­pion Le­high in the con­fer­ence opener for both teams. His 39 points rank sev­enth most for a sin­gle game in school his­tory.

“I think we should keep Vlad’s mom here for sure,” team­mate Nick Hen­dra said. “She can’t go back to Ro­ma­nia.”

In a matchup of the two top scor­ers in the league and fa­vorites to win the Pa­triot League player of the year, Moldoveanu and Le­high sopho­more C. J. McCol­lum put on a spec­tac­u­lar show. McCol­lum scored 32 points to lead the Moun­tain Hawks (9-7, 0-1 Pa­triot).

Moldoveanu seemed less mo­ti­vated by who was in the crowd and­whowas on the court than his pre­vi­ous per­for­mance against Le­high. In last sea­son’s con­fer­ence tour­na­ment, he scored four points in 19 min­utes in Amer­i­can’s third loss in a row to the Moun­tain Hawks.

“I was think­ing about the fact that we went 0-3 against them last year,” he said. “ They beat us pretty good all three times as I re­mem­ber. I had to step up.”

And step up he did. With the out­come hang­ing in the bal­ance, Moldoveanu sin­gle-hand­edly took the game over for Amer­i­can (11-5, 1-0) in the sec­ond half. The Ea­gles trailed, 47-44, when he went on a scor­ing surge to build their 10-point lead.

It be­gan with a layup that he con­verted into a three-point play af­ter be­ing fouled by Jor­dan Hamil­ton. On Amer­i­can’s next pos­ses­sion, Moldoveanu was bring­ing the ball up the court when he handed it off to Steve Lup­tak. As soon as he got near the three-point arc, Moldoveanu looked back at Lup­tak, who im­me­di­ately de­liv­ered him the ball. Sec­onds later, Moldoveanu’s shot was fall­ing through the net.

“Once he got it go­ing, we tried to go to him,” Amer­i­can Coach Jeff Jones said. “But more im­por­tantly, his team­mates were look­ing for him.”

Moldoveanu scored eight con­sec­u­tive points and 19 of the Ea­gles’ next 21 points as they took a 65-55 lead.

McCol­lum made sure to keep Le­high in the game. His three­p­oint play be­gan a 10-2 run by the Moun­tain Hawks that pulled them to 67-65 with a lit­tle more than five min­utes re­main­ing.

Af­ter McCol­lum put back his own miss to cut Amer­i­can’s ad­van­tage to 78-75 with 49.8 sec­onds re­main­ing, Moldoveanu se­cured the win for the Ea­gles. He sank a jump shot to ex­tend the lead, played good de­fense un­der­neath the bas­ket to pre­vent McCol­lum from mak­ing a layup, grabbed the re­bound and then was fouled by Gabe Knutson. Moldoveanu made both his free throws, go­ing a per­fect 10 for 10 from the foul line to put the Ea­gles atop the stand­ings.

“Well, if that’s any in­di­ca­tion of what the league sea­son is go­ing to be like,” Jones said, “I think we’re all in for a lot of ex­cite­ment.”

Amer­i­can, which has scored 70 or more points in four con­sec­u­tive games for the first time since the 2003-04 sea­son, has won five of its last six games. Up next for the Ea­gles, who were picked to fin­ish first in the league this sea­son, is Buck­nell. The Bi­son had won seven of their pre­vi­ous eight games head­ing into their game against Navy on Satur­day night.

“Con­fer­ence play is where it hap­pens. Noth­ing is more im­por­tant than con­fer­ence play,” Hen­dra said. “It’s great to start the sea­son 1-0.”

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