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Patriot League Notebook

January 19, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Patriot League Notebook

by Steve Sheridan

Let the Patriot Games Begin

The first weekend of Patriot League action ended with the standings pretty much the same as they were during the majority of the non-league slate. Lafayette and Lehigh continued to keep hold of the first and second place slots, respectively, as both teams went 2-0 in their first two league games. American went 2-0 as well, to keep up with the Leopards and Mountain Hawks. Colgate and Holy Cross are in the middle of the pack early on, as both teams went 1-1 in their two games, with the Raiders defeating the Crusaders on Wednesday night. And as was the case during the non-league schedule, Bucknell, Army and Navy have started off slowly, each losing their first two league games. Of course, the season has just begun, and so there are many more games to be played before a champion can be crowned.

Patriot League Player of the Week

Howard Blue, Colgate

The Colgate senior was named the Player of the Week for the second time for his excellent efforts against Juniata and Lafayette. The center averaged 24 points over the two contests, including a season-high 28-point performance against Lafayette in a league-opening loss. He also averaged 10.5 rebounds in his two games as well, providing a spark under the glass for the Raiders.

Patriot League Freshman of the Week

Carlton Baldwin, Navy

The freshman from Lusby, MD was named the freshman of the week for the second time this season after leading his team in scoring in two games last week. The forward averaged 16.5 points and 5.5 boards per game for the Midshipmen, including an 18-point game against Lehigh in Navy’s league-opener.

Now that the Patriot League season has begun, let’s roll out the recaps…

Lafayette Leopards (11-4 overall, 2-0 PL)

As expected, the Leopards began conference play just as it ended non-conference play, with excellent play and some victories. The team began its league slate by welcoming Colgate to the Kirby Sports Center, posting its highest point total of the season in a 97-86 win. Six Lafayette players scored in double figures on the evening, helping the Leopards to their highest-ever point total against the Raiders in a Patriot League matchup. As usual Justin DeBerry led the team in scoring with 20 points, while Winston Davis scored 17 to lead a well-balanced Lafayette attack.

On Wednesday, the Black Knights of Army came to Easton and left as every team that has ventured to the Leopards home court has done this season – in defeat. Lafayette ran its record to 8-0 at home with a 76-40 beating of Army, as the team followed up its most prolific scoring night with its best defensive effort in 19 years. Davis led the team with 17 points as 15 different Leopards got to see action in this runaway victory. The team held the Blacks Knights to 19.2 percent shooting in the second half, contributing to the lowest point total allowed by a Leopard squad since 1985.

With the two victories, Lafayette has already proved that it is the team to beat in the Patriot League this season, as the team has shown it can win by outscoring the opponent (Colgate) or keeping them from scoring (Army). The team with the target on its back will face another test when it travels to Worcester to take on a young Crusader squad on Saturday.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks (9-6 overall, 2-0 PL)

Another year, another year of surprises for Billy Taylor’s club. The Mountain Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 start after two home wins against Navy and Bucknell. Against the Midshipmen, Austen Rowland began the Patriot League season on the right foot, draining six three-points as part of a career-high 24-point outburst. The team shot a sizzling 57.1 percent from the floor in the first half, opening up an unbeatable 26-point lead at the half in cruising to an 80-61 win. Jose Olivero and Earl Nurse were also in double figures for the Mountain Hawks.

Olivero and Rowland stepped up once again for Lehigh against Bucknell on Wednesday night, as the duo combined for 38 points and 9 assists on the evening in a 75-70 victory. Lehigh continued its hot shooting, again jumping out to an early lead with a 52 percent shooting effort in the first half. Lehigh’s bench helped them to this victory, as the Mountain Hawk reserved out-scored their Bison counterparts by 10 points, aided in large part by Olivero’s 20. The obvious key to Lehigh’s success this season is scoring, as the team has shot right around the 50 percent mark in its first two league contests. The team’s first big test will come this weekend, when it travels to the nation’s capital to face off with fellow undefeated American.

American Eagles (8-8 overall, 2-0 PL)

American is also still a member of the undefeated, surviving a Bucknell stampede that almost dropped the Eagles in their first game. Jernavis Draughn had 10 points and 12 rebounds to help American hang on to defeat Bucknell, 58-55 in overtime. Andre Ingram was the only other Eagle in double figures with a team-high 13 points, but solid bench-work by American was a key in the team’s success. The tough American defense held Kevin Bettencourt, the Bison’s leading scorer, to only 6 points, all coming from the free-throw line.

Against Navy, the story for the Eagles was the play of Andres Rodriguez. The Puerto Rican Rodriguez scored 11 points, grabbed five boards and had five steals, but it was his school and Patriot League-record 19 assists that most led to the American victory. Ingram was the biggest recipient of Rodriguez’ generosity, as the freshman connected on eight three-pointers on his way to a career-high 27 points. Thanks in large part to Ingram, the Eagles shot an excellent 56 percent (14 for 25) from beyond the arc, a statistic that will give most any team the points needed for a W.

As has been the case with most teams so far, hot shooting has been the best weapon so far for American. The team will hope to keep up its momentum and prove to be the superior bird when the Eagles host the Mountain Hawks on Saturday.

Colgate Raiders (8-6 overall, 1-1 PL)

The Raiders escaped the first weekend of Patriot League action with a 1-1 record, after falling to Lafayette and taking down Holy Cross. Against the Leopards, Howard Blue paced the Raiders with a 28-point, 11-rebound effort, while Mark Linebaugh and Alvin Reed both added 19 points for Colgate. However, the Raider bench proved the team’s downfall, as Lafayette outscored the Colgate bench by a score of 24-10. A good sign for coach Emmett Davis was the team’s free-throw shooting, as the team drained 25 of 27 shots from the charity stripe in a losing effort.

The team rebounded to get into the Patriot League win column with a big win against visiting Holy Cross, 71-65 on Wednesday night. The team won for just the fourteenth time in 54 games against the Crusaders, largely on the shoulders of Alvin Reed, whose 19 points and seven assists helped give the Raiders an edge. Colgate’s 9-of-14 shooting from three-point land and 53 percent shooting overall propelled the team to victory, as the Colgate bench combined for 22 points in the win.

The two key areas for Colgate look to be bench production and three-point field goal percentage. If the team is unable to get good production in one or both of those areas (as with Lafayette), the team doesn’t stand much of a chance. The team hopes to continue heading in the right direction with a Saturday trip to Army before a final non-league match up with Dartmouth on Monday.

Holy Cross Crusaders (1-1 overall, 7-8 PL)

The Cross opened up its 2004 Patriot League schedule with an easy 60-32 victory over Army last Saturday. The Crusaders won their fifth straight league opener thanks to a stellar defensive effort, once with led to the fewest points allowed by a Crusader team since 1952. Greg Kinsey and Kevin Hamilton almost topped Army by themselves, as they combined for 29 points, led by Kinsey’s career-best 20. The defense was the big story in this contest, as the Crusaders held Army without a field goal for over 13 minutes after Army took an early 3-0 lead. The Black Knights were held to an anemic 16.7 percent in the first half, leading to the big loss.

The team couldn’t keep up the defensive excellence, however, in a 71-65 loss to Colgate. The Cross shot well on the evening, led by Nate Lufkin’s 17-point performance on 6-for-6 shooting from the field, but the team was unable to overcome the good shooting of the opposition. Holy Cross managed to find four players in double figures, led by Lufkin, but the team was only unable to muster 13 points from the other six players who saw action. The Crusaders did have a 36-22 edge in points in the paint, but in the end it was the Raiders’ three-point shooting that did in the visitors.

As evidenced by the team’s first two league games, Holy Cross is going to have to defend well if it is going to stay in games. The team faces a tough task in its next contest, when Lafayette invades the Hart Center on Saturday to take on the Crusaders.

Bucknell Bison (3-11 overall, 0-2 PL)

Despite an 0-2 record, Bucknell is the one winless team that nobody wants to play at the moment. The Bison lost two games to undefeated American and Lehigh by a combined eight points, never letting the opponents have an easy game. Against the Eagles, Charles Lee scored a career-high 18 points but the Bison couldn’t overcome Kevin Bettencourt’s 0-for-10 shooting night. Bettencourt ended up with six points, all from the free-throw line, which is where American was able to sneak away with the victory. Bucknell also helped by shooting only 31.6 percent from the field for the game.

The Bison fell to 0-2 despite 20-point games from Lee and Donald Brown, as Bucknell’s furious late-game rally fell just short. The Bison were down by as much as 16 in the second half to the Mountain Hawks, but the team couldn’t overtake the solid lead Lehigh has built up in the first half. Lee and Brown combined for 45 points, while Bettencourt and Chris McNaughton both added 10, but it wasn’t enough against the talented Mountain Hawk squad.

Despite the two losses, the Bison are playing pretty good ball at this time, and appear to be on the verge of finally breaking through into the win column. The team will finally get back to Sojka Pavilion after a six-game road trip on Saturday, when they welcome winless Navy.

Army Black Knights (3-11 overall, 0-2 PL)

Army just keeps falling and falling, and at the rate they are going there appears to be no end in sight. The team has now lost nine straight games after losses to Holy Cross and Lafayette to begin the Patriot League campaign. The big problem for the Black Knights continues to be shooting, as the team could only managed 32 points against the Crusaders. The team shot a mere 25.6 percent from the field and turned the ball over 24 times on the evening, contributing to the team’s worst point output since the days of FDR (that’s the 40’s, for all you non-history buffs). Colin Harris led the Black Knight “attack” with six, yes just six points.

Against Lafayette, the Army squad managed to break into the 40’s in scoring (barely), but still ended up losing by 36 points to a superior Leopard team. The Black Knights managed to stay with Lafayette for the first half, but a crushing 30-4 run to start the second half, along with the team’s 19 percent second-half shooting, ended all Army hopes of an upset. Josh Wilson and Sean O’Keefe combined for 29 of Army’s 40 points on the day, each in 27 minutes of action.

As has been painfully obvious to Jim Crews and his crew, Army is going to have to put some points on the board if it is going to have any chance at earning a victory. A chance to put the ball in the net and to end the team’s long losing skid will come on Saturday against Colgate.

Navy Midshipmen (3-12 overall, 0-2 PL)

The Navy ship is also beginning to take on more and more water, as the struggles continue for Don DeVoe and his Middies. Once again, it was a slow start that doomed the Midshipmen on this day, as Lehigh jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Carlton Baldwin led Navy with 18 points and 8 rebounds, helped out by Matt Fannin and Kwame Ofori, both in double digits. Navy actually outscored the Mountain Hawks in the second half, 37-30, but the first half woes prevented the Midshipmen from making a game of it.

The team then struggled against another hot team, falling to American, 80-58. The guard play of Andre Ingram and Andres Rodriguez baffled the Middies in the first half, contributing to a 14-point Navy deficit at the break. David Hooper helped keep Navy somewhat in the game, scoring 21 points as the only Midshipman in double figures. Navy’s main problem in this contest was its inability to keep American off the scoreboard, as it allowed the Eagles to shoot 54.4 percent for the game, including 60 percent in the second half.

This Navy squad has to figure out a way to come out from the starting gate and play well, as the team has had very little chance in many of its games due to slow starts. In a battle of teams starting slow, the winless Midshipmen travel to Lewisburg to take on fellow 0-2 Bucknell on Saturday.

     

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