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Patriot Notebook

December 16, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments



Patriot League Notebook

by Matt DaSilva

Early in the season, two big Patriot League stories appear to be emerging in Holy Cross and Boakai Lalugba.

The Crusaders only game this past week came in the form of 72-56 win over Brown, no magnificent feat by any means. And so, at least for the last week, the defending Patriot League champs (now 4-1) have conceded the stage to Bucknell big man Lalugba.

Lalugba was just one rebound short of a sixth straight double-double when he scored fourteen points and pulled down nine boards in the Bison’s 72-45 victory Monday over Fairleigh Dickinson.

Lalugba, the reigning Patriot League player of the week, and his stunning inside play of late has him averaging 20 points and eleven rebounds per game while shooting at a mere 58 percent clip. As a result, a much-maligned Bison squad heads into its break standing at a surprising 4-3 record after a tough non-conference schedule.

Holy Cross (4-1)

Senior forward Tim Szatko scored a game-high 20 points to lead four Crusaders in double figures as Holy Cross stretched its winning streak to four games with a 72-56 win at Brown last Saturday.

Holy Cross’ week of inactivity will get a shakeup at the Hartford Civic Center in Connecticut on Wednesday when the Crusaders face off with Yale in the Phoenix Classic.

Lehigh (5-3)

Their five wins have come against the likes of Dartmouth, Swarthmore, Texas Pan-American, Cornell and Columbia. Enough said.

But while it may be premature to be fitting the Mountain Hawks for the Patriot League crown, it can’t go unnoticed that a 5-3 start is their best since 1994. In fact, for a team that had five wins all of last season, baby steps are more like giant rungs on the ladder climbing out of the conference cellar.

Most recently, Lehigh took out Columbia with a 67-51 home win Monday. The numbers were impressive. The Mountain Hawks shot 63 percent from the field, including 70 percent from beyond the arc. Senior forward and all-Patriot League candidate Matt Logie efficiently netted 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Mike Fischman grabbed a career-high nine rebounds for the second game in a row.

The most telling number is? 1-7, that being Columbia’s record.

Lehigh’s non-conference slate will get a little tougher on December 23rd against the America East’s Stony Brook, but not much. It remains to be seen whether the Mountain Hawks’ fast start is the sign of a benevolent schedule-maker or a sign of a Patriot League race. After all, they did lose to Harvard.

Bucknell (4-3)

Quietly, behind Lalugba’s front stage presence, a freshman guard has tip-toed into his college career as the Bison’s potential X-factor at a Patriot League run this season.

Kevin Bettencourt, who scored a game-high fifteen points, led Bucknell to a 72-45 over Fairleigh Dickinson on Monday. The Bison won their second straight game and improved to 4-3 heading into an eleven day layoff for final exams.

Bucknell cruised from the field at 50 percent, while Bettencourt continued to impress. Now averaging just under eleven points per game (the team’s only player other than Lalugba averaging double figures), Bettencourt and senior co-captain Dan Blankenship have developed into a solid tandem at guard positions.

Yet, the young gun still has a lot of growing up to do. His shot selection is suspect. Through Monday, he had hoisted a team-high 47 three-pointers while hitting just 32 percent of them. Still, he’s playing well beyond his years.

Earlier in the week, Lalugba scored 24 points and tied a career-high with sixteen rebounds in a 57-54 victory over St. Francis. He hit his first eight field goals, but needed just two to reach the heralded 1,000-point mark. As a result, Lalugba stands as just the 14th player in school history to amass 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.

American (3-3)

The Eagles have opened up their new Bender Arena in style, snaking victories in the building’s first two games to even up their season record at 3-3.

A thematic swell for American early in their non-conference schedule has seen multiple players develop as potential game-breakers for a deep and experienced squad.

Ric Patiejunas was the unexpected surprise for the first few games, until he cooled off. On Monday, Patiejunas had cooled off considerably in scoring just four points in limited time due to foul trouble.

Enter Matej Cresnik, a sophomore forward out of Slovenia, who came out of nowhere to score fourteen points and grab six rebounds in American’s 61-58 win over Howard. What’s even more impressive, Cresnik stepped up when it seemed the Eagles were in danger of an upset. The teams were separated by just five points with 6:33 remaining when Cresnik took over, hitting a three-pointer and netting another five points in the next minute and a half to officially distance American from Howard.

Senior guards Glenn Stokes and Steven Miles, the Eagles’ constants, both had off nights shooting with identical three-of-twelve performances. Given that disadvantage and the 23 points out of Howard forward Kyle Williams, American had to resort to their secret Slovenian weapon.

The Eagles, now in their second season in the Patriot League, could pose a very real and formidable threat come conference time with the depth of their arsenal.

Colgate (3-4)

The Raiders had their seven game home-court win streak snapped on Sunday when a stronger than expected Long Island University team handed them a 78-70 loss.

Colgate was up 60-53 with less than twelve minutes left in the game when the Blackbirds shut the floodgates on the defensive end. A near seven minute span in which the Raiders were held scoreless translated into a 70-62 Long Island lead that was not to be relinquished.

Coming off a thrashing of New Hampshire last week, Colgate was caught back on its heels. With Blackbird forwards Antawn Dobie (27 points, six assists) and Derek Bell (ten points, thirteen boards) doing the damage, the Raiders saw their haven in Hamilton, NY shaken by a very unlikely New York opponent.

The efforts of forward Howard Blue (eighteen points, nine rebounds) and guard Tim Sullivan (fifteen points) were negated by nineteen Colgate turnovers in the game.

Army (2-4)

Maybe it was a demoralizing hangover after the esteemed Army-Navy football game over the weekend, where the Black Knights dropped an emotional season finale, 58-12. Navy put up numbers that seemed to indicate a basketball.

But when it came to basketball, Army fared not one bit better. The Black Knights lost to Albany on Monday, 47-43.

And what was the highlight for Army? A career-high ten points from Bill Mohr…or was it Jay Mohr? Regardless, the Black Knights struggled mightily to contain Antione Jackson, who scored seven of the Great Danes’ final eleven points en route to a 20-point performance.

The game at West Point went down to the wire, but it seemed Albany was just not to be denied its first win of the season. Meanwhile, Jim Crews’ crew has a lot of work ahead of them.

Navy (2-5)

Supposedly said to have a strong core of veteran leadership before the season, the Midshipmen already have fallen apart at the seams. Look no further than a 66-61 loss to Division III Johns Hopkins last Wednesday.

And Navy did little to redeem itself by dropping its fifth straight game, this after starting the season 2-0, to Coastal Carolina 63-59 last Saturday.

Torrey Butler scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds for Coastal Carolina, and some abysmal Midshipmen ball handling spoke volumes of where this season is headed for Navy. Twenty-one turnovers said it all as the Midshipmen’s lone bright spot came in the form of thirteen points and four rebounds from freshman David Hooper.

Look for Hooper to get more time in the upcoming non-conference games, especially since Don Devoe’s maneuvering to put Jason Jeanpierre at the point backfired in a big way. Jeanpierre’s seven turnovers were egregious, as he was part of that same senior core that coughed the ball up nineteen of the 21 times.

Lafayette (0-5)

Even the home comfort of Kirby Arena has done little to help the Leopards’ cause of notching that elusive first win of the season. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Against Drexel in its home opener last week, Lafayette never found any kind of offensive rhythm in shooting just over 30 percent from the field and turning the ball over 20 times.

But last Saturday against Princeton, the Leopards couldn’t miss. Forward Mike Farrell, the team’s lead man off the glass this season, took his prowess to the offensive end this time. He led Lafayette with a season-high seventeen points as Lafayette shot a solid 50 percent from the field for the game.

But, alas, Spencer Gloger and Ray Robbins dominated in the frontcourt for 21 and eighteen points, respectively. For Lafayette, the defense was the culpable party in this particular loss. The Tigers shot the lights out at 67 percent for the game, which included a 65 percent mark on three-pointers.

For Christmas, expect Leopards head coach Fran O’Hanlon to ask for some consistency.

     

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