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Patriot League Notebook

February 4, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Patriot League Notebook

by Steve Sheridan

Seeing that this is the Patriot League, I would first like to congratulate the New England Patriots on their second Super Bowl victory in three years Sunday night over the Carolina Panthers. And even though no member of the Patriots (or Panthers, for that matter) attended a Patriot League school, I still felt it was necessary to mention the Patriots in my Patriot League notebook, if only because I’m from Massachusetts.

Now onto the important stuff…

Navy Coach To Retire At Season’s End

Maybe the losing finally got to him, but Navy’s Don DeVoe has announced that he will retire at the end of this season. DeVoe, in his twelfth season as the Midshipmen head coach, has a record of 182-155 at the Naval Academy heading into this weekend’s games. He has led the team to at least a share of five league regular season titles and three Patriot League Tournament titles, while being named the League’s Coach of the Year on three separate occasions, with the last coming in 2000. In his 31 years behind the bench, DeVoe has put together a career mark of 510-383, and his 510 wins put him 57th all-time among coaches and eighteenth among active coaches. As a regular behind the bench of Navy, he will be missed come season’s end.

Player of the Week

Kevin Bettencourt, Bucknell

Bettencourt takes home his third Player of the Week award this season after averaging 22.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals in the team’s two wins last weekend. The sophomore guard also went 21-of-22 from the free throw line for the weekend, as he led his team to its current fourth place perch in the Patriot League standings.

Freshman of the Week

Kendall Chones, Colgate

I picked him last week, and the League decided to do likewise this week. His first official Freshman of the Week honors comes after a career-high 19-point and six board effort against Bucknell, which he followed up with a 10-point, 11-rebound game against Lehigh.

Lafayette Leaves American Seeing 3D’s

After taking advantage of having four of the team’s first five league games of the season at home, Lafayette (16-4 overall, 7-0 PL) ventured outside Easton for its first road series of the season, facing off with second-place American (good) and last-place Navy (bad). Despite the very different levels of competition, the Leopards came away from their first road test with the undefeated record still intact.

As has become a pattern for the Leopards, 40 minutes of fun just wasn’t enough to decide the victor between Lafayette and American on Friday night. American came out of the gate and played exceptionally well in the first half, as Lafayette scored the first bucket of the game and then didn’t lead for the rest of the half. The Leopards were held under 40 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes, as the visitors were dominated by a determined Eagle squad. Down by as many as 13, Lafayette slowly rebounded in the second half to cut the lead to just two points with 12 ticks left. With five seconds remaining, Justin DeBerry drove the lane and dished off to Rob Dill, who slammed home the game’s tying points with 1.8 seconds left. Winston Davis scored eight of his 15 points in the extra session, allowing the Leopards to escape with an 86-83 win. Dill scored all 15 of his points and swatted away four of his five blocks after halftime, while DeBerry also added 15 points and 10 assists, including the crucial dish to Dill with the game on the line. The Three Killer D’s helped Lafayette shoot 59 percent in the second half and just under 49 percent for the game, spoiling a valiant upset effort by the Eagles.

The Leopards then moved to 7-0 in the Patriot League for the first time in school history after a 65-50 win over another team looking for an upset, this time Navy. This time the scoring came from forward Sean Knitter, who scored 11 of his game-high 15 points in the second half. The points were needed as Navy jumped out to a surprising 27-22 lead by halftime, thanks in large part to the Leopards’ 7-of-21 first half shooting. The first place Leopards, as in the win over American, only led in the first half after scoring the opening two points. Lafayette, however, turned the tables on the last place Midshipmen in the second half, limiting Navy to an almost identical 7-of-22 shooting. The team then took its first lead of the second half five minutes in, and put away the pesky Navy squad with a 11-2 run late in the final stanza to make the final score not indicative of the intensity and closeness of the contest.

After finishing the first run through the Patriot League without a blemish, the ride begins again for Lafayette, beginning on Friday night when they travel to Cotterell Court to take on Colgate. (Shameless Plug Alert!) The game will be broadcast live over the internet by Sportsjuice.com at 7:45 p.m., with yours truly providing color commentary along side play-by-play man Ted Rossman, if you just have to hear it live. The team then finishes up its four-game road string against Army on Tuesday night.

Lehigh Crosses Off Holy Cross, Brushes Away Colgate

The resilient Mountain Hawks (13-7 overall, 6-1 PL) bounced back from last weekend’s tough loss to Lafayette by taking down Holy Cross and Colgate to take over second place by themselves. And yes, being a Colgate student, I have heard the “brush” joke and its many variants over 5,000 times, so I’m certainly not trying to be original.

There are not many games in which a team can shoot 32 percent from the field and expect to win, but that is just what the Mountain Hawks did on Friday night, beating Holy Cross, 63-53 at Stabler Arena. Lehigh defeated the Crusaders for the first time since 2000 thanks in large part to the play of Jose Olivero, who scored a game-high 21 points for the home team, 10 coming from the free throw line. The Mountain Hawks had a dismal first half, only hitting 4-of-21 shots (19 percent), and yet managed to get to the half only down one point. A big part of Lehigh’s success was on the defensive end, where they compiled 11 steals and forced 17 Crusader turnovers, allowing the offense, which shot 50 percent in the second half, to get the team back in the game. Austen Rowland, coming off his excellent weekend, scored just eight points on 2-of-11 shooting, but contributed five steals along with four boards and helpers.

Rowland came back strong on Sunday, however, helping the Mountain Hawks overcome a late run by Colgate in a 61-56 victory. Rowland scored a game-high 25 while Jason Mgebroff also reached double figures with 13 for Lehigh as they came back after the Raiders had erased an 11-point lead with less than two minutes remaining. The Hawks were able to pull ahead for good after Rowland hit a big three-pointer after Colgate mustered a one-point lead, then lead held up thanks to perfect free throw shooting from the home squad. Nick Monserez and Ra Tiah hit a combined six-of-six free throws in the game’s final minute, capping off a perfect night from the free throw line for Lehigh. Monserez also grabbed a season-high 10 boards on the afternoon for the Mountain Hawks, as the team kept themselves just one game back of Lafayette.

This weird schedule week has the Lehigh team traveling to take on two teams heading in opposite directions, first traveling to West Point to take on Army before jaunting over to Lewisburg to take on Bucknell on Saturday in a very important game against the surging Bison. If the team wants a shot at the top spot in the league, they’ll simply have to bide their time and keep winning until the team’s final shot at Lafayette arrives in late February.

Eagles Kill Themselves From The Free Throw Line Versus Lafayette

1.8 seconds. American (11-10 overall, 5-2 PL) was that close to pulling into a first-place tie with visiting Lafayette. Which is a shame, considering that the Eagles had their way with the Leopards for most of the game, trailing for just 39 seconds in the game’s first 40 minutes. But after letting Lafayette get back in the game, American had many chances to put the game away during the final minutes. American went the final 4:22 without a field goal, scoring only two free throws in that span. But once again, free throw shooting killed the Eagles. The team shot 59 percent from the charity stripe on the evening, highlighted by Andres Rodriguez missing the front end of two one-and-ones in the span of two seconds that could have sealed the game for the Eagles in regulation. The team then hit just 2-of-9 shots in the extra five minutes, while also (surprise, surprise) missing 4-of-8 free throw attempts. Raimondas Petrauskas led the team in scoring with 16, while Jernavis Draughn scored 15 points and collected 11 boards, but in the end the team was simply unable to hit their shots when they counted. At the end of the season, this could be a game that head coach Jeff Jones looks at and wishes he had back, depending on how the final standings play out.

The team seemed to shake off any ill affects of the loss when they faced off against Army, a team that seems to cure most any team’s ills. Petrauskas again led the way for the Eagles, coming off the bench to score more points (24) than the team’s five starters combined (21, 12 of those by Andre Ingram). American used a big surge at the midway point of the first half to take control of the game, outscoring Army 16-0 at one point to build up a 19-point lead with 3:16 left in the first half. The Eagles didn’t score for the rest of the first half and the first four minutes of the second; however, Army couldn’t get the lead below double-figures, and the lead never dropped below 12 after the Army run concluded. The team also shot 74 percent from the free throw line, including Petrauskas’ 10-of-13 night at the line; of course the free throws didn’t matter too much in this one.

American begins the second half of its Patriot League season with a tough game on the road against Bucknell on Saturday, then attempts to swat away the upset bug when they travel to Annapolis to take on the Midshipmen.

The Bison Begin To Make A Charge

The Bucknell Bison basketball squad (8-12 overall, 4-3 PL) has finally risen above the .500 mark for the first time in the Patriot League campaign after defending the home court against visiting Colgate and Holy Cross.

The Bison came out hot against the Raiders on Friday night, sprinting to an early 21-8 lead. Colgate battled back, taking a brief lead early in the second half, but the Bison defense provided just enough resistance, as Colgate never got within a basket during the game’s final nine minutes. Charles Lee provided a spark for Bucknell, scoring a team-high 16 points and snatching a game-high 11 rebounds, while Kevin Bettencourt got his customary double digits, adding another 16 to match Lee. Donald Brown and Chris McNaughton both contributed 10 points for the Bison, as Brown was the only Bison reserve to break the two-point barrier on the evening. One point of concern on this night for Bucknell was the team’s terrible three-point shooting, making only 2-of-15 from beyond the arc, with Bettencourt leading the way with a 1-for-7 performance from three-point land.

The team rectified its three-point shooting on Sunday afternoon against the Crusaders, as the team shot 63 percent from three-point land in a 77-67 victory over Holy Cross at Sojka Pavilion, beating the Crusaders for the first time in its last five tries. Bettencourt led the charge for the Bison with a game-high 29 points, with 14 of those coming from the charity stripe. The good free throw shooting translated into good shooting overall for the Bison, as the team’s 58 percent shooting from the floor would indicate. Despite the good shooting, Bucknell found itself down by one at the half, but managed to come away with its first win of the year when the team trailed at the half. And has been the case in many a league game this season, the game was capped off by some excellent free throw shooting, as the Bison connected on 9-of-10 free throws in the final 1:30 of the game.

Bucknell has the toughest next few games on the schedule, as it faces off with third place American on Saturday at home and then hosts second place Lehigh on Tuesday night. A win versus the Eagles would vault the team into a third place tie with American, while a sweep would most likely leave them in third as well, but would serve some definitive notice that the Bison do not intend to go away any time soon.

And not that we’ve recapped the good teams in the Patriot League, let’s get to the bottom four…

Colgate Seems Clueless While Blue-less

While most of the campus was celebrating the men’s hockey team’s weekend sweep of archrival Cornell, nobody seemed to notice that the men’s basketball team that shares the Reid Athletic Center was falling further and further out of contention in the Patriot League race after being swept this past weekend.

Once again without the services of leading scorer and rebounder Howard Blue, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury, Colgate (10-10 overall, 2-5 PL) dropped a 61-53 decision to Bucknell on Friday night. Kendall Chones continued his strong play starting in the place of Blue, scoring a game and career-high 19 points and adding 6 rebounds, but his effort was unable to counteract the balanced Bison attack. Andrew Zidar, the main inside presence for Colgate without Blue, got into early foul trouble and only scored two points before fouling out, his lowest point output of the season. Colgate was victimized by uncharacteristically poor foul shooting, especially in the second half, when the team hit only 38 percent of its free throws. Coming into the game shooting a league-best 74 percent from the charity stripe, the Raiders hit just over 50 percent of their attempts on Friday night. If the Raiders had only hit a few more of their free throws, the result of the game very well could have been different.

For the first time all season, Colgate lost back-to-back games after falling to Lehigh on Super Bowl Sunday, 61-56. The team continued their road woes, as the team has not won a road contest yet in 2004, thanks in part to that free throw shooting thing again. The team was under 60 percent again from the free throw line, and if they had just hit six of those eight missed shots, the game might have again gone the other way. Andrew Zidar managed to come back from his season-low outing by leading the team with 18 points, while Kendall Chones got his first collegiate double-double with 10 points and 11 boards. However, the efforts were wasted due to the lack of bench scoring, as the Raider reserves mustered only 10 points, with Jon Foss collecting seven and fellow Chones brother Kyle getting the other three. Keith Williams made his first start of the year for Colgate in place of an ill Josh Humphrey, but didn’t register a point in 16 minutes of play; not that Humphrey does much more than that on a nightly basis, anyways.

As the weeks wane, each game becomes more and more important for the fading Raiders, and this weekend is no exception. The Colgate squad hosts league-leading Lafayette on Friday night at 8 p.m. (see link above to get the internet broadcast), looking for a huge upset, then battles fellow 2-5 Holy Cross on Wednesday night at the Hart Center, a place in which the team had their score doubled in an 86-43 humiliation that I was unfortunate enough to witness personally last January. The team hopes to do a little better this time around, but with Howard Blue still out, we’ll see what transpires.

Holy Cross Continues Through Uncharacteristic Season

This season has been unfamiliar to the Worcester fandom, as Holy Cross (8-12 overall, 2-5 PL) is continuing to weather a down year. Last weekend, the Crusaders lost two in a row at the Hart Center, a place in which fans are accustomed to seeing Crusader victories and lots of them. This year, however, is different.

Holy Cross began the weekend on Friday night, falling to Lehigh, 63-53. The Crusaders were able to stay with the Mountain Hawks for the first 20 minutes, holding a tenuous 23-22 halftime lead. The Holy Cross defense played very well in the first stanza, holding Lehigh to 19 percent shooting overall, including 14 percent from beyond the arc. Jave Meade scored eight of his 12 points in the first half while Kevin Hamilton added seven of his 12 before intermission, helping keep the Crusaders in the game. After a Lehigh run gave the Mountain Hawks a lead as big as 13, Holy Cross was able to cut the lead down to five with under five minutes remaining. But the fouls began to catch up with The Cross by the game’s end, as Lehigh’s free throw attempts rose into the 40’s, compared to only 24 for the Crusaders. The Holy Cross bench was only to contribute eight points to the team’s cause, with Keith Simmons the better of only two bench scorers with six points.

On Sunday afternoon, the team ran into a streaking Bucknell Bison squad, losing again by 10 points, this time by a score of 77-67. The Crusaders once again were able to stay with their opponent in the first half, taking a one-point lead into the locker room at halftime as they did against Lehigh. The Crusaders came out and scored the first two baskets of the second half, but then watched Bucknell score 11 unanswered points to take the lead. The Crusaders, as would be expected of a Ralph Willard-coached team, didn’t quit, managing to tie the game with 4:46 remaining before finally succumbing to a game-clinching 9-0 run by the Bison over the next 2:36. Nate Lufkin led the team in scoring, with 12 points, and was one of three Crusaders with four rebounds. Jave Meade added 11 and Kevin Hamilton put in 10 of his own, but the team was unable to overcome the hot shooting of its opposition.

The Cross will look to put some separation between themselves and the other two teams that currently stand at 2-5 in the league alongside them, as the Crusaders host Army on Saturday and welcome the Raiders of Colgate to the Hart Center on Wednesday afternoon.

Service Academies Still In Need Of Major Tune Ups

Army (5-14 overall, 2-5 PL) and Navy (3-17 overall, 0-7 PL) are being grouped together because the two teams only managed to win one of their combined four games this weekend…and that game was between the two teams. There’s not too much to write about them, but I’ll do my best.

Friday night’s contest between the Black Knights and the Midshipmen was certainly close, which must count for something. Army’s 52-50 win was the team’s first in Alumni Hall in its last 15 games, and the win was also just the third win in its last 28 games against their archrivals. Down by one early, Navy reeled off a 13-1 run while holding the Black Knights without a field goal for over seven minutes. Rather than retreat to its terrible shooting habits, however, Army responded with a 20-2 run spanning the final 1:24 of the first half and the first seven minutes of the second. The game was not over, however, as Navy came back to tie the game on two occasions and was in position to steal a win in the game’s waning moments. Kwame Ofori, who led the Midshipmen with 15 points, had a three pointer that would have given Navy a one-point lead rim out, and two Bill Mohr free throws clinched the game for the Black Knights. Along with Ofori, David Hooper was the only other Middie in double figures with 10, while Matt Bell and Sean O’Keefe scored 17 and 12, respectively, to lead the victorious Black Knights to victory. Navy struggled mightily from the floor the entire evening, shooting 25 percent from the field by game’s end, while Army had a very good shooting night, hitting 47 percent of its shots.

The Black Knights couldn’t make anything of its one-game winning streak, traveling to D.C. and falling prey to American, 60-46. First-year player Travis Owsley stepped up his play for the visitors, as the guard was the only Army player over seven points with his lucky 13. An 18-0 Eagle run midway through the first half put away any chances of a Black Knight upset, as the Army offense took an unscheduled break. Army never got within single-digits after the big run, allowing American to cruise to the victory. Coming off his 12-point performance in the team’s win over Navy, Sean O’Keefe was held scoreless, as the senior took only three three-pointers and missed them all. If the Black Knights are going to hang with the upper echelon of the patriot League, the team is going to have to find a way to put together a solid game of basketball, not just one half of it.

The Navy team had dreams of taking down the top dog in the Patriot League on Sunday, putting a scare into the Lafayette Leopards before succumbing to a second-half onslaught, losing 65-50. Coach Don DeVoe purposely attempted to slow down the pace of the game in the first half, and his strategy seemed to work perfectly as the Middies limited the Leopards to just 22 first-half points and took a shocking five-point lead into the half. Navy’s lack of size inside and its sudden inability to shoot the ball from the outside led to a second half in which they were outscored by 20 points. Lafayette’s big men camped inside for easy baskets on their end of the court, while Navy shot just 32 percent in the second half. Taj Mathews led the Midshipmen with a career-best 11 points as the team fell one half short of an incredible upset.

Army faces off with Holy Cross, a fellow 2-5 squad, on Saturday afternoon and then attempts to do what no Patriot League team has done so far this season, defeat Lafayette on Wednesday. Navy, meanwhile, has two tough tasks in Lehigh and American, on Saturday and Tuesday, respectively.

     

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