By Mick Kowaleski '14
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 13:03
Senior point guard Tony Johnson has never lost to Holy Cross in the Patriot League Tournament. With Wednesday’s 77-54 rout of the Crusaders, the Leopards (18-14 overall, 11-4 Patriot League) extended their season-high win streak to six, moved to 7-0 at home for Patriot League Tournament games, and took a 4-0 advantage over Holy Cross in the PL Tournament over the past four years.
Lafayette buried the Purple and White with 14 three-pointers over the course of the game. They shot at a scorching 53.8 percent (14-26) clip from behind the arc, three apiece coming from Johnson, Seth Hinrichs ‘15, and Joey Ptasinski ‘15. The Leopards took the lead with 14:07 left in the first half off of a Hinrichs trey, went on a 16-0 run, and did not give it up for the remaining 34:07.
“Give Lafayette all the credit,” Holy Cross head coach Milan Brown said. “They played extremely well, they shot the ball at a high clip, and once the ball started rolling downhill, anything we tried to do offensively wasn’t good enough. Tip your hat to them, they’re a good basketball team, and they proved it tonight.”
Holy Cross had found success early on through a heavy dose of junior forward Dave Dudzinski. They leaned heavily on him early and often, trying to rely on his post play to offset the lack of offense from the rest of the team. Lafayette Coach Fran O’Hanlon adjusted, doubling Dudzinski and forcing the rest of the Holy Cross team to shoot. Dudzinski finished with 22 points. No other Crusaders reached double digits.
“They almost got to the point to where they dared anybody that wasn’t named ‘Dave’ to shoot,” Brown said. “You have to make sure you have help. He took 16 shots, which is a lot.”
“I think our rotations did a good job talking,” Johnson said. “I think our backside and our helpside was really helping with Dudzinski, because he was really killing us.”
The last time the Leopards faced Holy Cross, at Worcester, the Crusaders shot almost 70 percent from the field (67.4 percent). Lafayette still managed to get the win in that instance, but needed a three from Johnson in the waning seconds to do so. In this game, Lafayette’s defensive scheme nearly halved that number, forcing Holy Cross to a paltry 34.6 field goal percentage.
“When we defend, we can really get out and push it in transition,” Johnson said. “Last time, we didn’t have that many transition buckets because they scored so often.”
Johnson has been dynamic for the Leopards over their recent tear, and that didn’t change tonight. He scored 19 points on 7-11 (63.6 percent) shooting and dished five assists while also corralling a team-high seven rebounds. Hinrichs netted a team-high 20 points and added four assists, and Ptasinski joined him and Johnson in double digits with 11. Freshman standout Bryce Scott, who has earned a starting role in recent games, was the team leader in assists, connecting with teammates seven times.
From the 16:12 to the 8:38 mark in the first half, Lafayette did not miss a shot from beyond the arc, going 5-5 in that stretch of time.
“It was very efficient,” O’Hanlon said. “At this time of year, you have to playing your best basketball. We certainly showed that tonight. It was a team effort, everybody contributed, I thought it was a great team effort.”
After the game, Hinrichs was asked when he thought the game was over. “At the buzzer,” he said, a small smile playing across his face. When questioned about the sincerity of the statement, the forward said, “About the under-four minute media timeout.”
Lafayette led by 19 at that four-minute mark, and extended the lead to 29 with 2:02 remaining. The ending of the game was not in doubt after the 15:00 mark in the second half.
With the win, Lafayette moves on to the Patriot League Tournament semifinals, where they will host none other than the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Lehigh is coming off of a quarterfinal win against Colgate. The Leopards swept their archrivals this season for the first time since 2005, and have never lost a Patriot League Tournament game in Easton.
Tip-off is Saturday at 2 pm at the Kirby Sports Center.