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Patriot League Notebook

January 30, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Patriot League Notebook

by Steve Sheridan

This past weekend was a very entertaining weekend of basketball in the Patriot League, with a large share of very good basketball games. Conversely, there were also a few games that were decided before the first 20 minutes had concluded. But most importantly, the eight games played this weekend went a long way in determining who are the haves and the have-nots in the league this season.

At this point in the league season, nobody has yet to stop the Lafayette Leopards, who continue to stay atop the Patriot League as the lone undefeated squad. Also, it looks like Navy is keeping a firm grasp on the cellar keys to the Patriot League, having yet to win a league game this season, although Army might wrestle those keys away if they continue their terrible play (see below).

And in the middle of the pack, there is a trio of two-win teams that find themselves looking up in the standings, wrestling each other for the all-important statistical advantage for when tournament time comes.

Just as this weekend was a litmus test for many teams to see where they stand in the Patriot League, another important league weekend looms in the near future, as teams strive to prove they belong near the top of the standings.

Patriot League Player of the Week

Austen Rowland, Lehigh; The senior guard single-handedly took the Lehigh team under his wing this weekend, averaging 29 points in two games against Lafayette and Army. His best game of his short Patriot League career took place in the team’s OT loss to Lafayette, in which he dropped 35 points on the Leopards. The Hyattsville, MD native also averaged five assists, four rebounds and three steals this weekend.

Patriot League Rookies of the Week

The League’s Pick: Marcus Harley, Lafayette; The first-year guard averaged 15.5 points per game in the Leopards’ two wins this weekend, including 17 points in the win versus Lehigh.

My Pick: Kendall Chones, Colgate; The forward stepped up his play in the absence of leading scorer Howard Blue, scoring 16 points and grabbing five rebounds in both the team’s loss to American and its victory over Navy. His emergence was a pleasant surprise in a weekend of uncertainty for the Raiders.

Lafayette Works Overtime to Keep Unbeaten Record Intact

The Leopards (14-4 overall, 5-0 PL) must really like the game of basketball, because 80 minutes just wasn’t enough for Lafayette this weekend. In one of the best basketball games of the season, the Leopards outlasted Lehigh in a first place showdown on Friday night, 111-104, to take sole possession of the top spot. Justin DeBerry carried the Leopards past the archrival Mountain Hawks, scoring 26 points and dishing out seven assists to lead five Leopards in double figures. Lafayette excelled from the free-throw line on the evening, hitting 35-of-43 free-throw attempts, including 14 alone from the charity stripe in the extra session. Lafayette’s sizzling offense managed to carry them through this one, at the team shot 56 percent from the field and nearly matched that with a 53 percent outing from three-point range. Along with shooting at an 82 percent clip from the free-throw line, the Leopards managed to put together a very impressive offensive night at the right time. And let it be noted that Lafayette scored 21 points in the five-minute overtime alone; that stat will come in handy during another team’s review.

Not content to sit on their laurels, the Lafayette team came back on Sunday and put away a pesky Bucknell team, 81-72. Freshman Marcus Harley stepped up for coach Fran O’Hanlon, scoring a team-high 14 points in 25 minutes off the bench for the Leopards. Rob Dill added 13 points and 4 blocks, while Mike Farrell became the 20th Leopard to snatch up 500 rebounds for his career. Lafayette never trailed in the second half, utilizing just enough defensive pressure to repel a couple of Bison late-game charges. As in the Lehigh game, Lafayette was able to out-score its opponents’ reserves, as the Leopard subs registered 17 more points than their Bucknell counterparts.

Now with a big bull’s eye squarely on their backs, the Lafayette men face an upcoming four-game road trip, leaving the Kirby Sports Center where the squad has won its last 11 games and 15 of 16 contests. The team will face off with a surging American team on Friday night and a sinking Navy team Sunday afternoon.

A Pair of Battling Birds Perched Near Standings Summit

Lehigh and American sit tied for second place in the Patriot League this weekend, after the Mountain Hawks’ weekend split and the Eagles’ two-game sweep.

The Mountain Hawks (11-7 overall, 4-1 PL) fell out of first place with Friday’s tough loss to Lafayette, despite the efforts of Austen Rowland. The senior guard dropped 35 points on the Leopards in a long 42 minutes of action, vaulting over the 1,000-point plateau for his collegiate career. Another bright spot for Lehigh was the play of its freshmen, who each recorded double-digits in scoring. Jose Olivero continued his stellar rookie campaign with 17 points, while Jason Mgebroff and Kyle Neptune both recorded career-highs with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Lehigh led for most of the first three quarters, but a Lafayette rally faced the Mountain Hawks with a 1-point deficit with 3 minutes remaining. Lehigh wouldn’t quit, however, with Olivero tying the game with 11 seconds left with a pair of free-throws to send it to overtime.

The team bounced back on Sunday afternoon, when the team was fortunate enough to play Army. In the team’s 60-45 victory, Austen Rowland once against led the team with a game-high 23 points as the team led throughout the entire contest. The Mountain Hawks held the Black Knights to just 10 points on 12 percent shooting in the first half, before the Army team boosted its percentage up into the thirties by the end of the evening. Junior Nick Monserez was the only other Mountain Hawk in double digits for the Bethlehem ballers, who made sure no Army comeback would occur by shooting an excellent 57 percent from the floor in the second half and an even 50 percent for the game. Freshman Jason Mgebroff had another encouraging outing for Coach Billy Taylor, as he contributed seven points and eight rebounds off the bench.

The American Eagles (10-9 overall, 4-1 PL) swept through this past weekend to grab hold of second place, beginning Friday night with a hard-fought 74-71 road win against Colgate. This game matched up two teams in gear offensively, as both teams ended up with identical 53 percent shooting percentages from the field. Matej Cresnik and Linas Lekavicius were the only two Eagles to score more than ten points, but the duo was helped greatly by five other players scoring at least seven points. Lekavicius, along with Jamaal Caterina (7 points) provided a spark for American off the bench, helping the team overcome 44 percent shooting from the free throw line. Andres Rodriguez had a particularly tough time from the charity stripe, going 1-for-7 and keeping Colgate in the game as the team continued to foul the Patriot League assist leader. While missing 10 free throws may not have hurt them against Colgate, you can be sure that type of shooting performance would not stand up against Lehigh or Lafayette.

The Eagles continued playing well and left Worcester on Sunday with the team’s first ever road victory against the Crusaders, leaving the Hart Center with a 62-59 decision. This time, Andres Rodriguez clinched the game for the Eagles with his free-throw shooting, as he scored the team’s last six points and 10 of his 14 on the afternoon from the free-throw line. Once again, Matej Cresnik led the team with 15 points, followed by Rodriguez’ 14 tallies, while seven other Eagles got their names on the score sheet as well. American dominated the Crusaders in the paint, scoring 28 points to the Cross’ 12, in storming back from a six-point halftime deficit. Freshman Andre Ingram was held to only five points on 2-of-10 shooting for the Eagles, being held under double digits in consecutive games for the first time since the second and third games of the year.

Lehigh will attempt to replicate the success of American this weekend when it faces off with both Colgate and Holy Cross, with both games being played at Stabler Arena. American, meanwhile, gets the daunting task of attempting to knock off unbeaten Lafayette in front of the Eagles’ home crowd, but for their efforts they also get to play Army on Sunday. It will be an interesting weekend for these two teams, as Lehigh will be going up against two very tough teams hungry to get back into the thick of things in the Patriot League, while American has the toughest test of them all in Lafayette.

Colgate Singing the “Blue”s

The Raiders (10-8 overall, 2-3 PL) split their two games this past weekend against American and Navy, which was a respectable result considering the team was without the services of senior Howard Blue, who leads the team in scoring and ranks third in the league in both scoring and rebounding. Mark Linebaugh scored 21 points to lead Colgate, but it was freshman Kendall Chones who picked up the slack for Blue in his absence. The forward scored 16 points and grabbed five boards in his first collegiate start, including hitting all seven of his shots from the field. The team shot 53 percent on the evening, but as mentioned above the Raiders also allowed American to shoot at the same clip. The Raider bench contributed very little to the loss, as they were outscored by their American counterparts by a score of 31-10. Jon Simon led the Colgate reserves with six points.

Against the Naval Academy, a pair of freshman stepped up for Colgate and rallied the team to victory. Kendall Chones had his second straight impressive outing, again collecting 16 points and five rebounds, while Jon Simon scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the second half to keep the Raiders ahead of the Midshipmen. Simon’s 21 points, a career high, was aided by 9-of-9 shooting from the charity stripe. Besides Chones and Simon, three other Raiders reached double figures, while the team’s bench produced 36 points – thanks in large part to Simon – but nevertheless a huge improvement from two nights before. Colgate once again shot over 50 percent for the game (55 percent), but this time was able to keep Navy under 50 percent (49 percent). The Middies shot the ball well in the first half, opening up a six-point lead at one point, before Colgate went on a 15-4 run to close out the first-half and regain a lead they would now relinquish.

Colgate has a difficult weekend ahead of them, at the Raiders travel to Lewisburg to take on Bucknell before trekking to Bethlehem to take on the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh. And, while the team managed to pull off a split last weekend, if the team remains without the services of Howard Blue, Colgate will have to pull off a couple miracles in order to defeat these two strong teams.

Holy Cross and Bucknell Each Win One, Lose One

Holy Cross and Bucknell both kept pace with Colgate last weekend, as both teams were victorious on Friday before falling on Sunday.

The Crusaders (8-10 overall, 2-3 PL) got back on the winning track on Friday by cruising to an 88-54 win over the winless Midshipmen of Navy. Senior guard Jave Meade was all over the floor for Holy Cross, scoring a game-high 15 points, dishing out seven assists and adding six steals. A couple of big runs in the first half helped Holy Cross pull away from Navy, as an 11-0 run closed out by eight straight points by Keith Simmons pulled the Crusaders ahead, while a 20-5 run last in the first half helped put the Middies away for good. Holy Cross held a 23-point advantage at the half, as the team shot the lights out in the first half, connecting on two-thirds of their shots. Ralph Willard’s club was able to coast through the second half, as no starter played more than 27 minutes for Holy Cross on the evening.

Holy Cross against jumped out to an early lead against American on Sunday, but the team’s shooting failed them in the second half, allowing the Eagles to erase a ten-point deficit to win for the first time at the Hart Center. Once again, Jave Meade did all he could for his team, as he poured in 14 points while adding seven assists. His first assist of the evening was number 532 on his career, breaking the old Patriot League record set in 1997 by Navy’s Brian Walker. Greg Kinsey also added 14 points for the Crusaders, who shot just 28 percent from the field in the second half. Holy Cross was held to just one field goal in over 11 minutes during a 19-3 American run late in the second half, and a late Crusader surge was not enough to overcome the team’s dismal shooting stretch.

Speaking of dismal shooting performances, the Bucknell Bison (6-12 overall, 2-3 PL) might have been able to use some local high school players and still beat Army on Friday, as the team barely broke a sweat in a 56-23 embarrassment of the Black Knights. Abe Badmus and Charles Lee both scored 13 points to lead the Bison offense, but most of the attention was on the lowest-scoring performance against a Bucknell team since the pre-shot clock era of 1941, when the Bison defeated Susquehanna, 22-18. The Bison dominated on the glass against the overmatched Black Knights, rebounding all those Army misses to the tune of a 43-17 rebounding advantage. In a surprising statistic, Bucknell didn’t make a field goal in the final 10 minutes of the game, but by that point the game was so out of hand that it didn’t matter. Bucknell could have played with four, maybe even three players and still won.

Things got a little bit tougher for the Bison on Sunday, when they were beaten by the still-undefeated Lafayette Leopards, 81-72. Bucknell actually came out of the game with a higher shooting percentage than the Leopards, but the team’s three-point shooting and free-throw shooting let the team down. Bucknell shot only 29 percent from beyond the arc, while hitting only 17 percent of its free throws, compared to 45 percent and 82 percent, respectively, for Lafayette. Chris McNaughton and Kevin Bettencourt both had 16 points to pace to Bison attack, however McNaughton fouled out late in the second half. After giving up the fewest points in League history, the 81 points scored by Lafayette were the most Bucknell has given up in a Patriot League contest since the 2001 season.

The Crusaders take to the road this weekend, in two crucial games against Lehigh and Bucknell. Bucknell stays home this weekend to take on the Crusaders while also welcoming Colgate to Sojka Pavilion, looking to defeat the two teams currently tied with them in the league.

Down Times For the Service Academies

It’s kind of getting repetitive, but it just has to be said once again. Army and Navy do not have very good basketball teams this season, and it is becoming readily apparent that these two squads will certainly be battling each other to stay out of the league basement for the remainder of the year.

The Black Knights (4-13 overall, 1-4 PL) put together one of the worst shooting weekends in the history of the Patriot League in falling to Bucknell and Lehigh. Against the Bison, Army was held to just 23 points, the lowest school total since 1941 and the second-lowest total for any school since the inception of the shot clock in 1986. Army hit as many free throws as field goals on the night, seven, in shooting under 20 percent for the game, including a ridiculous NINE percent in the second half. That’s 2-of 21 shooting in the game’s final 20 minutes. As noted above, Lafayette scored 21 points in five minutes of overtime against Lehigh, which really puts into perspective the offensive ineptitude put forth by Army against Bucknell. Josh Wilson, as the only Army player over three points, led the Black Knights with six.

The team didn’t do much better on Sunday afternoon against Lehigh, as a 10-point first half led to thoughts of a repeat performance but only ended up leading to another loss. The team shot 12 percent in the first half, hitting only three first-half shots, before getting its act together and shooting at a 50 percent clip in the game’s second stanza. Matt Bell managed to reach double figures for Army, scoring 11 points, while three other Black Knights actually scored over eight points. The team did hang with Lehigh in the second half, being outscored only 36-35, which does show that the team has the ability to put the ball in the basket, but that the team is just going through a very, very tough stretch at this point.

The Midshipmen (3-15 overall, 0-5 PL) continued their losing ways in the Patriot League as well, first losing by 34 points to Holy Cross on Friday night. Jeff Charles was the only Middie in double figures against The Cross, scoring 12 points, but the team was doomed by yet another slow start. Navy couldn’t get within 29 points for the final 16 minutes of the half, with Holy Cross’ largest lead being 38 points for the game. Yes, this recap is short, basically because there wasn’t too much to say about Navy on this day.

The team did come out on Sunday and play a much better game, but the result was the same as the team lost, 91-84 to Colgate. The team entered the contest having lost all eight road games of the season by an average of 28.8 points, but in this one the Midshipmen actually held a lead for the first 10 minutes of the game. Navy was down by as much as 14 in the second half, but the team clawed back to get within three, thanks to the efforts of Carlton Baldwin, who scored a team-high 19 points in just 19 minutes. Kwame Ofori and David Hooper scored 15 and 12, respectively, while Leonard Green had his best game of the year with 14 points and four boards. Another good sign of the Midshipmen is that, despite the loss, the team shot better than 50 percent from the three-point line, hitting 10-of-14.

One good thing about this weekend’s games is that, when Army faces off against Navy, one of the two teams has to win the game. Of course, when these two teams go at it, it might not be the prettiest of games. Army also has to play once-beaten American, while Navy will attempt to pull of a huge upset against Lafayette.


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