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Patriot League Notebook

November 25, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Patriot League Notebook

by Steve Sheridan

If you were to pick two Patriot League teams that would begin the season with a victory, the Holy Cross Crusaders would certainly have been one of them. But after that, only one other Patriot League team started off the season on the right foot, and that team turned out to be Army, a team which couldn’t manage a league victory all of last season.

The Black Knights defeated Columbia, 60-57, on Friday night to get the team’s season off to a good start. Freshman guard Matt Bell shined in his first collegiate game, pouring in a game-high 20 points, including 11 points registered from the free-throw line. Bell, one of twelve freshmen on coach Jim Crews’ squad (along with six seniors), also played a team-high 37 minutes in the game. His emergence looks to be a good sign for an Army team that lost leading scorer guard Andy Smith, as Bell seems to be able to step right into Smith’s shoes and lead the offense.

With the victory, Crews registered his 300th career victory, becoming the 44th active Division I coach to reach the milestone. In his nineteenth season behind the bench, Crews has compiled a record of 300-231, with this being his second season leading the Midshipmen. Congratulations to Coach Crews and his team on his accomplishment.

Just weeks after a Board of Trustees vote bestowed athletic scholarships on the athletic department for the first time, the Colgate men’s basketball team had its first two players sign National Letters of Intent to come to Hamilton next fall. Kyle Roemer (Martinez, CA) and Peter Minchella (West Lafayette, IN) will comprise Colgate basketball’s first scholarship class in the fall of 2004.

Roemer is a 6’3″ shooting guard who averaged 16.7 points per game for De La Salle High School, shooting 42 percent from three-point land. He was named the MVP of the Bay Valley Athletic League in his senior season. Minchella, a 6’10” center out of William Henry Harrison High School who averaged 10 points per game, was ranked as the eleventh best player coming out of Indiana this season. These two student-athletes look to be the first in a long line of qualified players to come through the newly established Colgate scholarship pipeline.

As mentioned, the Holy Cross Crusaders started off their season with a victory, a surprisingly close 59-57 win over the Terriers of Boston University. The game was not over until Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year Jave Meade sunk two free throws with five seconds left to give Holy Cross the victory. The free throws marked the end of a back-and-forth struggle, which saw each team threaten to lead by double-digits before watching the opponents storm back themselves to threaten likewise.

Freshman Torey Thomas tied for the team high with 18 points along with junior John Hurley. The Cross shot 51.2 percent from the field and forced 20 BU turnovers on the day, two stats that will help you win a lot of games. Meade added 10 points and five assists in his 40 minutes of play, including his two clutch free throws.

As could be inferred from above, American and Bucknell both lost their respective season openers, but that could be excused considering the competition they were up against.

American fell 79-48 to Maryland, with much of the blame going to the team’s terrible shooting. The Eagles opened the contest hitting just one of its first 21 shots, which in large part contributed to the team’s eight-point first half, in which the Eagles shot a miserable 14.8 percent. Freshman Andre Ingram paced the anemic American attack, scoring a game-high 16 points on four-of-eight shooting from beyond the arc.

Bucknell faced a much tougher opponent and came much closer to pulling out the biggest win in school history. Unfortunately for Bison fans, the seventh-ranked Michigan State Spartans fought the Bison off late to take a 64-52 win Friday night. Bucknell, led by Kevin Bettencourt’s career-high 21 points, held the lead until 5:14 left in the game, when a Shannon Brown layup gave the Spartans a 51-50 lead that they would never relinquish. The Achilles heel for the Bison proved to be free throw shooting, as the team connected on only one of 17 free-throw attempts for the game. With a few more free throws dropping, Bucknell might have been able to secure the lead and make some school history.

Player of the Week:

Matt Bell, Army

The freshman scored 20 points and added four steals and two rebounds in his first collegiate game to lead the Black Knights to a 60-57 victory over Columbia.

Newcomer of the Week:

Matt Bell, Army

If you’re the player of the week and you’re a freshman, the odds are good you’ll win this award too.

Holy Cross Crusaders (1-0 overall)
Holy Cross barely avoided the upset bug against Boston University, eking out the aforementioned 59-57 victory. The play of Torey Thomas must have coach Ralph Willard optimistic, as Thomas may be looked upon to replace the graduated Brian Wilson. With Jave

Meade at the other guard position, things might just come easy to whomever Willard chooses to play the other guard spot. The Crusaders will take on another Boston-area team on Tuesday, when they welcome Harvard to the Hart Center.

Army Black Knights (1-0 overall)
Although it’s a non-league victory, the Black Knights can wake up this morning knowing that they have more victories than six teams in the Patriot League, which is certainly something that could not be said last season. The success of the team this season will depend on the maturity shown by the squad’s twelve freshmen, some of whom (Matt Bell, for instance) will be asked to step in and contribute immediately. The team returns to action today against the Coast Guard Academy.

Bucknell Bison (0-1 overall)
Despite putting a major scare into the Spartans, Bucknell was unable to seal the deal against Michigan State on Friday. A late 15-2 run by Michigan State turned the score into one that wasn’t indicative of the closeness of the game. Head coach Pat Flannery will be sure to work his team hard on free throws during practice this week, as the squad’s chances went down with its free-throw percentage, which ended up just under six percent. Another unnerving statistic for the Bison is that, other than Bettencourt, only one Bucknell player scored more than four points for the game. The team will try once again to get into the win column Wednesday night as Yale comes to Lewisburg for the team’s home opener.

American Eagles (0-1 overall)
Another team that will have to work on its shooting, not just from the charity stripe but from anywhere on the floor, is American. The Eagles’ eight point first half dug a hole that even the best of teams could not get themselves out of, leading to a rout at the hands of Maryland. They managed to stay with the Terrapins in the second half, which is a good sign for coach Jeff Jones and his squad. The Eagles will continue searching for some consistency on offense when they face off with the University of Delaware on Tuesday night at Bender Arena.

Colgate Raiders (0-1 overall)
Colgate began its 2003-2004 campaign on a down note on Friday night, as the Princeton Tigers built up a lead as large as 21 points while cruising to a 73-64 victory at Jadwin Gym. Princeton shot the lights out on the evening, hitting 63 percent of its shots (27 for 43) on the night. For Colgate, senior captain Howard Blue began the season off right, dropping 23 points and grabbing 14 boards for the Raiders in a losing effort, while fellow captain Mark Linebaugh scored 17 for Colgate, 13 coming in the second half. These two are expected to put up big numbers for the Raiders this season, but if the team is to win the other starters and role-players will have to step up and contribute as well. Next up for Colgate is a Tuesday night match-up with the rival Big Red of Cornell.

Lafayette Leopards (0-1 overall)
Lafayette was unable to put away a persistent Rutgers team on Saturday, as the Scarlet Knights were able to pull off a 71-65 victory over the Leopards in Piscataway, NJ. Lafayette led by as many as nine points in the second half, and yet was not able to keep the Rutgers squad from storming back to take the win. Lafayette’s Winston Davis led all scorers with 20 points, while Justin DeBerry added 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. After them, however, there was a drastic drop off in production, as the next two scorers for Lafayette managed only seven points apiece. The Leopards hope to rebound on Monday when they face Saint Peter’s.

Navy Midshipmen (0-1 overall)
Navy didn’t exactly begin its season on the right foot. Not expected to do much in the Patriot League this season, the Midshipmen began the year by being trounced at the hands of the University of South Carolina, 73-40. The 40 points were the fewest scored by a Navy team since the 1978-1979 season, when the team scored 40 but gave up only 43 to Penn State. Jeff Charles scored a career-high 13 points and grabbed a career-high eight rebounds, while Kwame Ofori added 10 points for Navy. The team hopes for a much different result when it hosts Belmont in its home opener on Monday night.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks (0-1 overall)
The Mountain Hawks got off to a slow start and never were able to recover in the team’s first game on Friday night, falling 67-54 to Long Island. As apparently was a plague for Patriot League teams this weekend, Lehigh was done in by poor shooting. Lehigh shot 27 percent from the floor, including 12 percent from beyond the arc, statistics that will not win you a lot of games. The defense held LIU to 40 percent shooting, but the Mountain Hawks were unable to generate much on the offensive end, with Earl Nurse and Dayne Mickelson both scoring just 11 points to lead the team. The team hopes to shake off the early season cobwebs on Tuesday when Stony Brook visits Stabler Arena.


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