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Patriot League Notebook

December 27, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Patriot League Notebook

by Steve Sheridan

Once Again, It’s Lafayette

It was a good week for the top team in the Patriot League, as Lafayette went undefeated on the week. Lafayette finished the week with its winning streak and its first place standing intact, while Lehigh had a five-game winning streak broken on Monday night, still enough to hold down the second spot. Colgate and Holy Cross both managed one victory last week to take the third and fourth slots, respectively. If the early non-league standings are any indication, it looks as if the Patriot League race will be composed primarily of these four squads, with Lafayette as the early favorite as we slowly creep towards the beginning of league play.

Player of the Week:

Sean Knitter, Lafayette.

The reserve center had his best two games for Lafayette since transferring from Delaware, recording two straight career-highs in games against Lycoming and Cornell. The center missed only four field goals and one free throw in these two games, proving to be an impressive weapon for coach Pat Flannery off the bench.

Freshman of the Week:

Chris McNaughton, Bucknell.

In his one game of the week, McNaughton scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. The center leads the nation in field goal percentage (.804), despite seeing his percentage go down with his performance against Penn. This is the center’s second Freshman of the Week award this season, having been awarded the honor on the first day of December.

Lafayette Leopards (8-1 overall)

The Leopards seem to be getting help from everywhere on the roster so far this season, and this week’s leader was junior reserve center Sean Knitter. Wednesday against Lycoming, Knitter hit all seven of his second half shots on his way to a career-high 20 points, leading the Leopards to a 84-73 win over the Warriors.

After a 10-day break for exams, it looked as if Lafayette needed some time to shake off the rust, as Lycoming held a 10-point advantage early in the second half. Knitter, however, responded by making four straight shots to get the Leopards back in the game. Knitter led four Leopards in double-figures on the evening.

On Saturday, Knitter did himself three better, pouring in 23 points in an 87-79 victory over Cornell. The center led a huge Lafayette burst midway through the second half, a 22-4 run that gave Lafayette a 20-point lead with 6:12 remaining, and the team managed to hold on from there. The team also managed to eke out a 47-44 victory over Princeton on Monday night. The Leopards’ 8-1 record, with eight straight wins, is the best start for a Lafayette team since the 1971-1972 season. Following a holiday break, the team heads to California to face-off with Southern Cal on December 28 and Cal State-Northridge on December 30.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks (6-4 overall)

Lehigh won its two games last week to vault over Colgate into second place in the non-league standings, increasing its winning streak to five. The team first cruised to a 99-61 win over Delaware Valley, then clung to a small lead in a 60-57 victory over Dartmouth. Against Delaware Valley, sophomore Mitch Gilfillan led the team with a career-high 21 points in his most minutes of the season. The large point deficit allowed coach Billy Taylor to play all members of his squad, as all 13 members of the team had at least six minutes of playing time, with 12 of the 13 reaching double digits in minutes. The team had a much tougher time against the Big Green, as it took two free throws by Jose Olivero with eight seconds remaining to give the Mountain Hawks a three-point victory. Olivero and Ra Tiah both had 16 points to lead Lehigh, while Austen Rowland had an excellent overall game, finishing with seven points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. The streak came to a halt, however, when Albany took advantage of some poor Mountain Hawk shooting to send Lehigh home for the holidays with a 63-55 overtime loss. Despite the fact that Albany didn’t get on the scoreboard for the first 6:33 of the first half, the Great Danes were able to come back thanks to a 5:27 dry spell for Lehigh. The team now takes a holiday break before traveling to #24 Vanderbilt on Tuesday.

Colgate Raiders (5-4 overall)

Continuing the theme of streaks, Colgate has now won four of its last five after a 97-67 victory over Hobart on Saturday afternoon. Howard Blue tied a season-high with 23 points to lead the Raiders to a decisive victory, while Andrew Zidar added 11 points and 10 boards for his third double-double of the young season. As is custom in these types of blowouts, coach Emmett Davis emptied his bench, as four Raider bench-players notched career-highs in scoring on the evening, including twin brothers Kyle and Kendall Chones, who registered nine and eight points, respectively. The team’s annual trip to Syracuse, however, seems to always stop any momentum the team may have garnered. The Raiders must have had a lot to think about on the 45-minute ride back to Hamilton after a 101-63 drubbing at the hands of the eighteenth-ranked Orangemen. Mark Linebaugh led the Raiders, who have now lost 38 straight to their upstate rivals, with 23 points in a losing effort. The team now takes a week off to celebrate the holidays, traveling next to Long Beach State on December 30.

Holy Cross Crusaders (4-4 overall)

The Cross finally made it back to the .500 mark after a 69-43 victory over Brown. Following an 11-day layoff, the Crusaders were led by Kevin Hamilton’s team-high 15 points, while also having three other Crusaders in double figures. Jave Meade, John Hurley and Keith Simmons each notched 12 points for Ralph Willard’s club. It looked like the layoff might have given Holy Cross some trouble originally, but a huge spurt midway through the first half resulted in a 24-9 run and an 11-point halftime advantage. The Crusader defense held the Brown shooters to just six field goals in the second half, never letting the Bears get closer than seven points. Meade’s two steals on the day set a new standard for Holy Cross with 206 thefts, besting the 204 steals recorded by Dwight Pernell from 1987-1990. The Crusaders will next be in action on Sunday, when they travel to Madison Square Garden to participate in the Dreyfus Holiday Festival, first facing a tough task against Luis Flores and Manhattan.

Army Black Knights (3-5 overall)

Army moved up from sixth to fifth in the non-conference standings without playing a game, as the team is currently in the midst of a 19-day stretch between games. The team will look to end its three-game losing streak on Tuesday when UNH comes to West Point to face the reeling Black Knights.

American Eagles (3-6 overall)

American dropped a spot in the standings after losing to St. Francis and Notre Dame. Against the Red Flash, the Eagles got off to a hot start, leading 21-7 after ten minutes of play and holding a 30-15 lead with five minutes left in the first half, yet St. Francis used a 12-4 run to close the gap heading into halftime. The Red Flash came out flying in the second half, and after taking the lead held American from getting closer than three points. Andres Rodriguez led the Eagles against the Red Flash, scoring a career-high 18 points while dishing out nine assists, grabbing five rebounds and registering four steals. Against previously ranked Notre Dame, Andre Ingram and Matej Cresnik combined for 44 points in a 78-74 loss. For a ten-minute span, American wouldn’t miss a shot, hitting 11 straight shots for 26 points to take a four-point lead. Chris Thomas, however, hit the Irish’s last 13 points to give Notre Dame the victory. AU next plays Pepperdine in the first round of the Rainbow Classic on Sunday.

Bucknell Bison (2-6 overall)

Bucknell went 1-1 on the week, falling to Penn before coming back to best Ursinus on Monday night. Against Penn, both teams had a terrible first half, with the Bison holding a tenuous 19-16 halftime lead. Both teams shot under 30 percent in the first frame. The Quakers were able to effectively contain Kevin Bettencourt, who came into the game averaging 19.2 points per game to lead the league, as he finished with just five points and five boards. For the game, Bucknell shot only 37.5 percent, while Penn rebounded to shoot 41.9 percent on the evening. Against Ursinus, Chris Niesz’ first career double-double led the Bison past the previously-unbeaten Bears, 77-62.

The taller Bucknell squad availed themselves fully of that height advantage, dominating the rebounding margin, 56-29, while outscoring the Bears 36-16 in the paint. Niesz recorded 14 points, 11 boards and four blocks, leading the team in each category for the game. Bucknell will next be in action on Monday, when they compete against Norfolk State in the first round of the College of Charleston Classic.

Navy Midshipmen (2-7 overall)

Navy had a brief winning streak going for itself last week, as a 95-66 clobbering of Washington (MD) College gave the team two straight wins. The team shot 53.9 percent in garnering its second straight victory against a Division III opponent, with 14 of 15 roster players scoring for Navy. However, the team returned to Division I and returned to its losing ways as well. Against Ohio, the Middies were done in by a 22-9 Bobcat run to close out the game, spoiling what had been a back-and-forth affair. After 10 ties and 12 lead-changes, a Jeff Halbert three-pointer gave Ohio a 44-43 lead it would never relinquish. Jeff Charles played well at the point guard position, filling in for injured Kwame Ofori, scoring five points and dishing out four assists. On Monday night, Navy traveled to Rice and was blown out of the water, 81-55. A 14-0 run midway through the first half broke a 14-14 tie and gave Rice a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way. Charles continued his good play, leading the team with 13 points. The Midshipmen are next in action on Saturday, when they host Mount St. Mary’s.


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