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Patriot League Notebook

December 7, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Patriot League Notebook

by Steve Sheridan

Divine Patience Needed At The Cross

If you look at the standings for Patriot League teams so far this season, you certainly would not expect Holy Cross to be under .500. The Crusaders are currently 2-3 on the season, having dropped their last three games, but the real story is the team itself. Nate Lufkin, who was expected to be an integral part of the team, is only now slowly working himself back into form after missing time with a leg injury, which severely hampers the progress made by the team. Neil Fingleton is also coming off an injury, meaning that two of The Cross’ big men are not near full capacity. Coach Ralph Willard has been forced to go to his entire bench for support, even if it means having four freshmen on the court for a majority of the game, as the team did in a victory over Harvard a few weeks back.

But while the Crusaders may sacrifice some wins in the short term, these circumstances are giving valuable experience to freshman and sophomores who will be able to contribute once the Patriot League season comes around in January. Names like Keith Simmons, Torey Thomas and Kevin Hamilton may not be well-known right now, but it is people like these who will ultimately decide whether Holy Cross will repeat in the Patriot League this season, not the well-known commodities such as Lufkin and Jave Meade. With all these underclassmen gaining valuable experience being thrown into the fire, only time will tell whether they are able to stand the heat.

Patriot League “Direct” To You

Good news for all you Patriot League basketball fans out there, as the Patriot League Basketball TV Package has returned to DirecTV for a second season. The schedule calls for 11 games to be broadcast, with six Friday night men’s regular season contests, as well as all four men and women’s League Tournament semifinal games and the women’s Championship game. Bob Socci will return to handle the play-by play duties for all 11 games, while renowned author John Feinstein will provide color commentary for the men’s broadcasts. Feinstein, author of The Last Amateurs, which is an excellent book on Patriot League men’s basketball (I recommend it highly), will be sure to provide some quality commentary for the broadcasts.

Featured matchups this package include Lehigh-Lafayette, one of the league’s longest-running rivalries, and Army-Navy, a game in which the records can be thrown out the window. Each team will be seen at least once as part of this package, so be sure to catch your favorite team in action in the coming weeks.

Player of the Week: Winston Davis, Lafayette. The Leopard guard nets his first career Player of the Week award after averaging 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in two games last week. Davis led Lafayette in scoring in the first three games of the season.

Freshman of the Week: Chris McNaughton, Bucknell. the 6’11” center from Germany has a very nice week for himself coming off the Bison bench, as McNaughton scored 26 points in two games for Bucknell. The freshman missed only three of 13 shots in these two games, contributing to his 78.6% shooting from the field so far this season.

Lafayette Leopards (3-1 overall)

The Leopards have rebounded from an opening game loss to reel off three straight victories, defeating St. Peter’s, LaSalle and Drexel. St. Peter’s and Drexel did not go down easily, however, as it took last-second blocks to secure victories in these two games. Against St. Peter’s, Justin DeBerry gave Lafayette a one-point lead with 11 seconds left and Rob Dill swatted away a last-second scoring attempt. Against Drexel, Sean Knitter’s tenth and eleventh points of the night gave the Leopards a 69-68 led with 1:09 left, and Jamie Hughes helped the lead stand up with a game-saving block with three seconds left. Player of the Week Winston Davis led the team in scoring against St. Peter’s and LaSalle, while DeBerry paced the team versus Drexel. Against LaSalle, DeBerry crossed over the 1,000-point threshold, joining Colgate’s Mark Linebaugh in the active Patriot League 1,000-point club. The team goes up against Centenary and Binghamton this weekend on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

Army Black Knights (3-2 overall)

Army has moved to 3-2 on the year after a 65-48 defeat of SUNY Maritime, which came after the team dropped two straight to Sacred Heart and Cornell. Josh Wilson has stepped up for the Black Knights, leading the team in scoring in two of its last three games. The senior center chipped in 18 against Sacred Heart and 21 against Cornell, while adding 10 points against SUNY Maritime. Things will get a little tougher for Army this weekend, as they travel to Albany on Friday to take on a solid Great Dane squad, before entering Husky territory to take on fourth-ranked UConn in Storrs.

Colgate Raiders (2-2 overall)

The Raiders continued their inconsistent play of late, alternating wins and losses for the first four games of the season. This is not a good sign for the ‘Gate, as the team’s inconsistency became their downfall during most of last year’s league schedule. One constant for Colgate has been the excellent play of Alvin Reed, who has notched career-high point totals in three straight games. He poured in 26 points, including 19 in the first half, in the team’s first home win of the season, a 69-66 seesaw victory over Albany. Against Cornell, the Raiders picked up their first win of the season by holding the Big Red scoreless for the final two minutes of regulation and the first four of overtime, escaping Ithaca with an 84-77 OT victory. The team travels to Durham tonight to take on New Hampshire and then returns to Cotterell Court for a Tuesday tilt with Buffalo.

Holy Cross Crusaders (2-3 overall)

As mentioned above, it has been a tough few weeks for the Crusaders. After upending a young Harvard squad, Holy Cross endured three straight defeats. The Cross was handed its first loss of the year by a solid Princeton team, 61-55, with Keith Simmons leading the way for Holy Cross with 20 points in a losing effort.

The team then traveled to Chestnut Hill for its annual matchup with Boston College, and hung around with BC before falling, 64-51. The big difference in this contest was at the free throw line, where BC went 30-for-42 while the Crusaders went only 8-for-15. A losing streak was officially pronounced after Williams College, the defending Division III national champions, shocked the Hart Center crowd by invading Worcester and leaving with a 78-71 win. Allowing Williams to shoot 66.7 percent in the second half did in the Crusaders, as well as their own 37.3 percent shooting. One bright spot for Holy Cross in this contest was the 16 points, a team-high, for Nate Lufkin, who looks to get himself back into form. The Crusaders have no time to dwell on past losses, however, as the team meets up with Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals on Sunday.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks (2-3 overall)

Lehigh ended a two-game skid on Wednesday night with an 82-58 victory over Swarthmore. Freshman Jose Olivero led the way for the Mountain Hawks, scoring 12 points. This win came on the heels of the team’s game with fourth-ranked UConn, a game in which Lehigh managed to hang around with the Huskies, yet never really put a serious scare into Jim Calhoun’s club. Olivero again paced the team, scoring a career-high 17 points, and yet this wasn’t nearly enough to topple one of the nation’s best teams. Lehigh was able to knot the score at 24 with 2:43 left in the first half, but UConn went on an 11-2 run to put the game away before halftime. The Mountain Hawks will play a pair of Ivies next, as they host Harvard on Saturday and journey to New York City to take on Columbia on Monday.

American Eagles (1-4 overall)

In its last two losses, American has surely given its fans their moneys worth, as both losses have come down to a final shot. Against Farleigh Dickinson, Tamien Trent hit a three-pointer with five seconds left to lift FDU over the Eagles, 55-54. Andres Rodriguez, who got himself into foul trouble early and scored only one basket all game, got a last-second shot off that couldn’t find its mark. A 21-10 run to close the game gave American a chance against Elon, but Linas Lekavicius’ half-court heave wasn’t close as the Eagles fell, 85-82. Rodriguez finished with 16 points on the evening but once again fell into foul trouble, fouling out in the game’s final minute. American coach Jeff Jones must want to see Rodriguez on the court in the game’s waning moments, and so this recurring theme must be one that is worrisome to the squad. Rodriguez and his mates will look to put some games away early against UNC-Greensboro and Howard this weekend.

Bucknell Bison (0-4 overall)

The Bucknell squad must have used up all its energy in attempting to take down Michigan State a few weeks back, as the team has still yet to find a win four games into the season. The Bison’s best chance at victory came against the Yale Bulldogs, in which the team battled back from a 14-point second-half deficit to take the lead before Scott Gaffield hit a three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to give Yale a 63-62 victory. Bucknell had a chance for a last-second shot, but the inbounds pass with 2.1 seconds remaining was stolen, ensuring the Yale win. Against Northwestern, Bucknell again made a serious charge late in the second half only to fall short. They were down 16 points with under six minutes to go and went on a 9-1 run to end the game, but time was not on their side on the night. The Bison tries for the fifth time to get that elusive first win on Saturday against St. Francis.

Navy Midshipmen (0-4 overall)

The Midshipmen have had some ugly games so far this season, starting with the 73-40 pummeling at the hands of South Carolina in the season opener, and things have not gotten any better after that. After Navy scored the first basket of the game, Belmont scored 20 unanswered points in cruising to an 88-71 victory in the Middies’ home opener. According to the team’s website, the team “more than doubled” its point total from the USC game (40), and those math skills must have come in handy calculating the point differential when the Air Force Academy blew Navy off its home court last Wednesday, whooping the Midshipmen by a score of 86-46. Again, it was the fast start that did in the Middies, as the Falcons jumped out to a 25-6 lead early on before putting themselves on cruise control for the remainder of the evening. Add in a 65-60 loss to James Madison, in which the Dukes scored 18 of their final 21 points from the free-throw line, and Navy has been outscored by 95 points in its four losses. Ouch. The team takes on the University of Central Florida in sunny Orlando on Sunday.


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