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Patriot League Notebook

February 19, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Patriot League Notebook

by Steve Sheridan

As the season begins to wind down, the teams are shuffling for position for the upcoming Patriot League Tournament. In the past two weeks, we have seen Lafayette finally lose a game, Bucknell really turn on the jets, and some other teams start to fade as the season wears on. With just four league games remaining for each team, the urgency must start now, for there’s not much time left to make your move.

Player of the Week

Kevin Bettencourt, Bucknell

The sophomore was awarded his fourth Player of the Week honors and second in three weeks after averaging 16 points and 4.5 rebounds in two Bison victories last week. Bettencourt has been the offensive catalyst in the sudden resurgence of the Bucknell team as it climbs its way back to the top of the Patriot League.

Rookie of the Week

Kendall Chones, Colgate

The forward becomes the first player this year to win Rookie of the Week honors three times this season, doing so in consecutive weeks. Chones has scored in double figures seven times in his seven starts this season, averaging 15.5 points and 6.5 boards in his last two games.

Leopards Finally Lose, But Still Sit Atop League

Lafayette (18-5 overall, 9-1 PL) experienced its first loss of the Patriot League season last Friday night, but the team came back strong with two wins to keep its place atop the Patriot League standings.

The Leopards were handed their first loss of the league season by none other than Colgate, in a very surprising 75-66 loss at a (for once) raucous Cotterell Court. The Leopards came out very slow for the nationally televised contest, allowing the Raiders to build up a nine-point lead on a few occasions, but the team managed to tie the game heading into the half on a Justin DeBerry runner as time expired. The team grabbed its first lead of the game at the 13:11 mark of the second half, but they let Colgate regain the lead and, after another brief Leopard lead, the Raiders went ahead for good. Looking solely at the stats, it would seem as if the Leopards should have won the game. The team shot 53 percent from the field for the game, with Mike Farrell leading the way with 14 points on perfect 7-of-7 shooting. DeBerry had 13 and Winston Davis added 11, but the duo was fairly neutralized by the Raider defense, forcing the Double D’s into a combined 10-of-23.shooting night.

Despite the loss, the Leopards managed to stay in first place in the league with two strong outings against Army and Holy Cross. Against the Black Knights, Farrell again paced the team with 16 points and eight boards in the 78-70 win, while Davis added 16 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists for a well-balanced game. After spotting the Cadets a lead for the first ten minutes of the game, Lafayette’s multi-pronged attack kicked into gear and put the Leopards ahead to stay. Jamaal Douglas and Pat Betley also scored in double figures for Lafayette, while DeBerry had a relatively quiet night with a season-low nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. On Saturday afternoon the Leopards completed their season sweep of the Crusaders by taking a 78-72 win in Easton. DeBerry rebounded from his performance against Army by scoring a game-high 16 points, including eight straight in a pivotal 13-3 run midway through the second half that put Lafayette ahead for good. Big men Sean Knitter and Rob Dill each contributed 14 points to the Leopard cause, with Dill also adding nine rebounds and five blocks in the paint. Lafayette shot 45 percent from the field, while also shooting a very good 84 percent from the charity stripe, where the team scored 26 points compared to Holy Cross’ eight.

Lafayette now heads into its toughest weekend of the season, as it battles the two teams currently right behind them in the league standings. The team travels to Bucknell in Friday night and Lehigh on Sunday afternoon for two very tough road games that will go a long way in determining who gets the top seed in next month’s Patriot League Tournament.

Lehigh Briefly Tastes First Place, Settles Back Into Second

The Mountain Hawks (15-8 overall, 8-2 PL) continue to defy expectations by keeping themselves near the top of the Patriot League, coming off two wins in their last three games.

With the team’s 66-38 beating of Navy last week, Lehigh temporarily moved into a first-place tie with Lafayette. The Mountain Hawks’ fourth straight win was aided by two freshmen, Jose Olivero and Kyle Neptune, who each scored 12 points on the day. Lehigh shot the lights out for the game, using a 52 percent first half to put the Midshipmen behind and a 70 percent second half to give the Middies no chance at a comeback, and they added to the Navy problems by keeping them to just 28 percent shooting for the game. Lehigh also shot 60 percent from three-point land and 80 percent from the free throw line, putting together an impressive offensive performance against a team it certainly should beat. At 7-1, the win gave the Mountain Hawks their best start ever in the Patriot League.

Unfortunately for Lehigh, they next ran up against the Bucknell Bison buzz saw, losing a heartbreaking 64-63 contest in Lewisburg. Jason Mgebroff and Austen Rowland led the team with 15 and 14 points, respectively, while Ra Tiah added 10, all of which came in the first half. This game was a tale of two halves, as Lehigh fell behind by nine after 20 minutes thanks to 33 percent shooting, but rebounded in the second half by shooting 50 percent from the field. The big play in the game was an intentional foul called on Nick Monserez with 25 ticks left and his team up by two, as Bucknell tied the game with a pair of free throws and then hit one of two on the ensuing possession to take the one-point lead with seven seconds left. Tiah’s last second shot then fell short, knocking the Mountain Hawks out of the first-place tie.

Not a team to dwell on its losses, Lehigh responded in a big way on Saturday afternoon by blowing out American, 86-65. Lehigh’s guard duo of Austen Rowland and Jose Olivero accounted for 47 of the team’s 86 points on the day, with Rowland leading all scorers with 29. The Mountain Hawks had another excellent shooting game against the Eagles, hitting 57 percent of their shots from the field, 68 percent (13-of-19) from three-point land and 72 percent from the line. American hung around for the first 20 minutes, heading into the half only down four, but Lehigh put together a key 13-4 run to open the second half, in which they outscored the Eagles 43-26.

If the Mountain Hawks are going to overtake the Leopards for first place in the league, this is their weekend to do it, as the two teams will face off on Sunday with first place hanging in the balance. The team will get a warm up for its battle by taking on Army on Friday evening.

Bucknell Keeps On Winning

The Bucknell Bison (11-12 overall, 7-3 PL) are the hottest team in the Patriot League right now, as the team has ran off five straight wins and eight of its last nine to propel itself into the third position in the league standings.

The Bison first moved up into a third-place tie last week, after the team’s 67-62 win over American. Kevin Bettencourt and Charles Lee were the only two Bison in double figures, scoring 20 and 16 points, respectively, but the Bison’s 57 percent shooting night gave the team a win. Bucknell raced out to an early lead, running off 14 of the game’s first 16 points, and never looked back. The team held a 15-point halftime edge, and that lead was just enough to hold off a furious Eagle charge down the stretch. Lee hit six free throws and Bettencourt added two in the final 1:04 of the game, allowing the Bison to overcome a stretch where they missed 8-of-11 free throw attempts and to continue their winning ways.

Lee and Bettencourt again hit free throws down the stretch to clinch the team’s one-point win versus Lehigh, as Lee’s pair tied the game with nine seconds left and Bettencourt’s one shot gave the team the one point win. Lee once again was huge for the Bison, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 boards, while Bettencourt hit only two shots from the field but scored 10 of his 15 points from the free throw line. The duo, which came into the game 1-2 in the Patriot League in free throw attempts per game, combined to go 19-for-23 from the line. As in the American game, Bucknell built up a nine-point lead at halftime, and then managed to pull out the victory late in the game.

The Bison never seem to win easy, as evidenced by the team’s come-from-behind win against Navy on Saturday afternoon. The Bison were never able to pull away from the Midshipmen, needing a late three-pointer from Bettencourt to secure the 54-52 victory. Bettencourt scored a game-high 17 points, while Lee was one point away from a double-double with nine points and 10 boards. The Bison, however, lost many of the statistical battles, and yet still were able to pull out a victory, their first in Annapolis in 14 games. Bucknell seemed to struggle with Navy’s attempts at slowing down the game, shooting under 40 percent for the game, with Lee and Bettencourt combining to hit just 8-of-26 shots. But a win is a win, and Bucknell now has five of those in a row.

The team has its second chance at the league-leading Leopards on Friday night, followed by a date with sixth-place Army on Sunday afternoon.

American Slides To Fourth Place After Two Losses

If the Bison are headed in the right direction, the American Eagles (12-12 overall, 6-4 PL) might be headed in the wrong direction after losses to Bucknell and Lehigh.

American slid into a tie with Bucknell after falling to the Bison in a game in which the Eagles were never able to take a lead. American utilized a full-court press to get themselves back into the game in the second half after falling behind early, but the big first-half lead built up by the Bison proved to be just too much for the Eagles to overcome. Jernavis Draughn led the team with 17 points and Rookie of the Year candidate Andre Ingram contributed 16 of his own, but no other Eagle had over eight points. Linas Lekavicius scored eight points, but more impressively he came up with nine steals, which set a school record for a game.

The Eagles temporarily bounced back by taking out their aggressions on Navy, crushing the Middies, 71-49. Ingram had 15 points to lead all scorers, while Andres Rodriguez added 10 points, 11 assists and four steals in a full 40 minutes of action. The Eagles scored 11 points better than their Navy counterparts in each half, shooting 58 percent for the game while only allowing Navy to shoot in the mid-30s for the game. While the rebounding totals for the two squads were equal, American held a 36-16 advantage in points in the paint, as the Eagles were able to muscle their way past the smaller Navy team and into the win column.

In Round Two of the Battle of the Birds, however, American dropped from its third place position on Saturday with the team’s loss to Lehigh. After a first half in which the visitors shot 56 percent from the field, the Eagles came crashing back to earth, shooting only 35 percent in the second half while the Mountain Hawks continued to soar. Rodriguez got the team going early by scoring seven of the team’s first nine points on his way to 13 on the day, and Jason Thomas and Andre Ingram added 16 and 13 points, respectively, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the excellent guard play of the Lehigh squad. Other than Draughn, who had 10 boards, the Eagles were manhandled down low, losing the rebounding battle by 16 to the Mountain Hawks.

Strictly looking at the standings, American would seem to have the easiest weekend of the top four teams, as they host Holy Cross and Colgate this weekend for two very important league matchups, in which they hope to start some more upward momentum in the final push for playoff positioning.

Crusaders Escape Sixth Place Tie, Look Upwards

Holy Cross (10-13 overall, 4-6 PL) defeated the two teams that were tied with them in the league standings, Colgate and Army, finally creating some separation between the teams in the middle of the pack in the Patriot League.

The Crusaders quickly put a halt to a three-game losing streak by dropping three after three on the Black Knights of Army, leaving no doubt as to the better team in a 78-38 demolition. Holy Cross tied a school record for three-pointers in a game after nailing 13 against Army with Kevin Hamilton leading the way, as the sophomore scored a team-high 14 points, nine of which came from beyond the arc. The Crusaders opened the game with a 20-3 run over the first 9:50, establishing a huge lead that would never be contested by the visitors. The Cross held the Black Knights to just 10 points on 16 percent shooting in the first half, as Army hit just three shots in the first 20 minutes. The Crusaders, meanwhile, hit 47 percent from the field in the first half, and then bettering that mark by hitting half of their second half attempts. John Hurley, with 10 points and 12 boards, was named the Winter Homecoming MVP for the winners.

Holy Cross continued its excellent defensive work in its next game, holding Colgate to just one field goal in the final 9:03 in a 60-49 win. Hurley and Hamilton again led the team on the offensive side of the court, as the duo registered 16 and 15 points, respectively, and five blocks and six steals between them. Besides the stingy defense, which produced 13 steals and 16 Raider turnovers, the team also continued its hot shooting, connecting on over 51 percent of its shots for the game, including a 50 percent mark from three-point range. Holy Cross especially dominated in the paint, where it outscored the Raiders by 22 points, 38-16. They key for the home team in this once was its ability to counter Colgate runs with runs of their own, eventually using a big second half run to put the game way.

The Crusaders’ brief winning streak came to an end, however, when they faced off with the top team in the Patriot League, losing a 78-72 battle with Lafayette. Hurley led four Crusaders in double figures, but it wasn’t enough for Holy Cross to pull off the upset. The key to this game was from the free throw line, which the Crusaders visited only 13 times, compared to 31 for the home team. Jave Meade led the team with four shots from the charity stripe, while six Leopard players had at least four attempts from the line. Meade, along with Hamilton and Keith Simmons, all had 11 points for the Crusaders, who also struggled from the three-point line as well, hitting just 6-of-21 attempts from long range. Also in the game, Meade broke the Patriot League record for steals in a career with his 235th swipe, to go along with his league record assist total (now at 568 and counting).

Holy Cross has a chance to gain a game on the team directly above them in the standings, when they face off with reeling American on Friday night. The team then gets its second chance at winless Navy on Sunday afternoon in Annapolis.

Colgate Continues Its Confounding Campaign

This Colgate Raider team is a team that I report on locally for the Colgate campus newspaper. It’s a team that I see every day. And after the team’s last three games, I have given up trying to figure them out.

Heading into its first game of the season’s second half, Colgate (11-12 overall, 3-7 PL) looked as if it might have turned a corner after becoming the first league team to defeat Lafayette this season, taking a 75-66 decision from the Leopards. Alvin Reed led five Raiders in double figures in the team’s best game of the year, as the team came out strong early and continued its excellent play for the remainder of the game. While Kendall Chones, who scored 12 points and grabbed nine boards, has now become a reliable player for Colgate, brother Kyle had his breakout game for the Raiders, scoring a career-high 14 points, including a huge three-pointer with one minutes remaining that clinched the game in front of an excited home crowd.

The team took that excitement to Worcester and proceeded to match the team’s worst point output of the season in a 60-49 disappointment. The team shot only 38 percent from the field for the game, including a 31 percent mark in the game’s final 20 minutes. Over the game’s final 14 minutes, Colgate could only managed 11 points, nine of which came from Kendall Chones, who led the team with 19 on the evening. Mark Linebaugh also had 13 for the Raiders, but it wasn’t enough as the team lost yet another road game, its sixth in a row.

While the loss to Holy Cross was bad, the team’s season may have been epitomized by the Raiders’ 68-63 home loss to Army on Saturday afternoon. Colgate came out very slowly while the Black Knights came out firing on the day, as the Raiders shot only 35 percent in the first half while the opponents were allowed to hit over 60 of their shots. And despite the Raiders’ 50 percent shooting in the second half, they were unable to shut down the lowest-scoring offense in the Patriot League, thus resulting in a crushing blow to the Colgate season. Mark Linebaugh led all scorers with 21 points, but late in the game some key three-pointers wouldn’t fall for the senior, whose flair for the dramatic was unable to save his team on the day.

At this point in the season, no game can be taken for granted by the Raider squad, including Friday night’s game with last-place Navy. The team then gets a much stiffer challenge, when they face off with American in the nation’s capital. And since both of these contests are being played on the road, where Colgate still hasn’t won in 2004, every minute will be a struggle.

Army Sweeps Colgate For First Time In School History

The Black Knights (6-16 overall, 3-7 PL) may not have had a very successful weekend, but at this point in the year any weekend in which the team can garner a win has to be considered successful, there was one reason to be cheerful around West Point this week.

Army slowly built up to the team’s win against Colgate, first by getting demolished by Holy Cross last week. In the team’s 78-38 embarrassment, Army was held to just one field goal in the game’s first 16 minutes, allowing the Crusaders to sprint out to a 31-6 lead that was never in jeopardy. In the second half, Army almost came back, getting within 36 points of the Crusaders, but Holy Cross was able to hang on for the win. Travis Owsley led the team with nine points, as the squad shot just 29 percent from the field for the game.

The Knights delivered a much better effort against league-leading Lafayette, as the team managed to hang with the Leopards for the first half before eventually falling, 78-70. In the first stanza, the visitor’s lead never reached double figures as the Black Knights shot 54 percent from the field, keeping right up alongside the Leopards in that department. The team cooled off considerably in the second half, however, hitting just 30 percent of its shots from the field. But overall, it was an encouraging game for Army, who was led by Josh Wilson’s game-high 19 points and 16 from Sean O’Keefe. Freshman Eric Sewell also had his second straight nice game for the Black Knights, adding 10 points and five boards in limited action.

The progression was completed on Saturday, when the team defeated Colgate for the second time this season, 68-63. The team led for just about the whole game at the Black Knights came out firing, hitting over 50 percent of their shots in the first half and taking an 11-point lead into the intermission. The team then followed that up with a 50 percent shooting percentage in the second half, not allowing Colgate to get back into the game. O’Keefe again led the team with 15 points, while Bill Mohr had one of his best games of the season, working his way inside for 14 points on perfect 5-of-5 shooting. The team made sure to seal the victory by hitting 17 free throws in the second half, after not reaching the line once in the game’s first 20 minutes.

With some momentum possibly heading their way, the Black Knights have a tough weekend ahead of them, as they head out on the road to take on Lehigh on Friday night, then move on to Lewisburg to take on the stampeding Bison on Sunday afternoon.

Navy Still Can’t Win A League Game

A television colleague of mine mentioned a few weeks back that it must be hard for these Midshipmen to come out and play every game, since they have yet to win a league game this season. And yet, this team continues to play its hardest, always playing its opponents tough.

Navy (3-20 overall, 0-10 PL) dropped a couple of tough games to Lehigh and American in the past week, falling by scores of 66-38 and 71-49, respectively. Facing off with the Mountain Hawks, Navy scored the fewest points in a game for the academy since a 52-36 loss to Princeton in 1976. No Midshipman reached double figures against Lehigh, with two players reaching the eight-point plateau. As usual, the team struggled to find its touch on the offensive end, shooting just 28 percent from the field, including 22 percent in a first half in which the team could only score 13 points. Against the Eagles, Chika Onyekanne was the high man for the Midshipmen in both points and rebounds, scoring 12 points and taking down five boards. The key to this game was that, quite simply, Navy couldn’t stop a red-hot American team from putting the ball in the basket, as the Eagles were up over 57 percent from the floor while Navy was stuck in neutral all game long, hitting only one-third of its shots for the game. The game also marked the fourth straight contest where the Middies were kept under 50 points, which will not win you many games.

The Midshipmen rebounded from those losses to put a huge scare into the Bucknell Bison, but the team was unable to pull off the major upset. On this afternoon, it wasn’t the shooting that hurt the Navy squad – the team shot 42 percent from the floor, besting Bucknell’s percentage – but instead ball handling proved to be the team’s downfall. Despite having a six-point lead with under seven minutes left, the Midshipmen continually gave the ball back to the Bison, committing 14 of the team’s 20 turnovers in the second half. The team had a chance to tie or win it in regulation, but Kwame Ofori’s last-second drive to the hoop was thwarted by Charles Lee, sending the Midshipmen home, once again, with a loss.

If the team has one team it wants to see on its schedule right now, it’s Colgate, and the Midshipmen will have a chance to keep up the good feelings from the Bucknell game when they host the Raiders on Friday night, still looking for that elusive first league win. The team also welcomes Holy Cross to Alumni Hall on Sunday afternoon.

     

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