BOSTON – Fran O’Hanlon must have thought it was January all over again. It was that kind of day for his team on Saturday at Agganis Arena, where his team was right there in the first couple of minutes and then never really in it as the Leopards were blown out 88-54 in a game that didn’t even seem that close.
“It was just a total domination by them,” said O’Hanlon.
That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. Lafayette tied the game at 4 less than two minutes in, then it was never a ballgame after that. The Leopards had their second-worst shooting game of the season both from the field and from long range.
That’s not quite the story of the season for this team, but it’s not what was expected. This veteran team was expected to contend in the Patriot League, but instead is near the bottom.
January was a forgettable month for the Leopards as they lost all nine games as part of an 11-game losing streak. Four were by five points or less, but five were by double digits, so there wasn’t a pattern. The streak showed how valuable Seth Hinrichs is, as the junior wing missed the first ten of those games with a left knee injury. Hinrichs shoots well over 46 percent on three-pointers on the season and is one of the league’s best players. In his first game back, he was 2-10 from the field in 23 minutes, so you know he wasn’t all the way back and they lost to Colgate.
Hinrichs isn’t alone in missing time, however, and that’s part of why this team hasn’t been able to get into a real rhythm. In fact, only junior Joey Ptaskinski and freshman Nick Lindner have played in all 23 games thus far. O’Hanlon has had to go with 12 different starting lineups due largely to injuries. It’s a fairly lengthy list of players who have missed games: Bryce Scott missed a game with a right ankle injury, Dan Trist missed one with a left shoulder injury, Zach Rufer missed a game with a quad injury and four more with a concussion, and Alan Flannigan missed four games with a left knee injury.
O’Hanlon wouldn’t talk much about that except to note that it’s not an excuse for where they are.
“We just have to keep getting better,” said O’Hanlon, the dean of coaches in the Patriot League. “We played much better the last couple of games than we did, certainly, today. We just have to regroup and figure things out.”
Lafayette won two straight and appeared to be showing life before Saturday’s blowout loss, which will be one you can throw out when evaluating this team. Each team has a game to forget and this was theirs. About the only bright spot on Saturday is that the Leopards out-rebounded the Terriers, which is their third straight game coming out on top on the boards after they had been hammered on the glass in the first nine games of league play. It was, however, a hollow advantage, not just because they were blown out where it counted but because it was in part the product of the many missed shots they had.
If healthy, the Leopards have the personnel to make a surprise run in the Patriot League Tournament next month. That’s something they have done in recent years under O’Hanlon, and this team may be developing some depth as a result of the injuries. But they will have an uphill battle just to avoid the first round games, as they are four back in the loss column from sixth-place Bucknell after Saturday. That will make for a tougher road.
For now, the Leopards have to make a move little by little in the standings. They are an experienced team and can shoot from long range, and with that they can be dangerous. On Saturday, however, they didn’t look anything like it. The game itself may be an aberration, but this hasn’t been an easy season – just like Saturday wasn’t an easy game.