Leopards Ground Eagles, Secure 2nd Seed
Men’s basketball wins fifth straight, rolls into Patriot League Tournament
Published: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 17:03
Eight years have passed since the Lafayette men’s basketball team defeated American University in Easton.
“It’s certainly been a while,” Leopards head coach Fran O’Hanlon said.
The losing streak came to an end Saturday as the Leopards (17-14 overall, 10-4 Patriot League) grounded the Eagles (10-19, 5-9) at Kirby Sports Center.
With the 80-72 victory, Lafayette clinched the second seed in the Patriot League Tournament and capped off a five-game winning streak, their longest since 2010.
For the third straight game, senior star Tony Johnson paced the Leopards in scoring, notching a team-high 22 points on 7-9 (78 percent) shooting while also leading the team in rebounds (7). But while Johnson led the team in scoring, forward Dan Trist ‘15 was perhaps the game MVP.
American pressed Johnson defensively early on and forced Lafayette to beat them down low, attempting to take advantage of the Leopards’ slightly smaller set. But beat them Trist did, dominating the early minutes of the contest en route to scoring 15 points while adding four assists. When American coach Jeff Jones realized that American had no frontcourt advantage, Johnson was freed up to make plays, and scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half.
“Dan Trist, I thought, was outstanding,” Jones said after the game. “We had hoped coming in to the game that our size might be a factor. Instead, I think Trist more than held his own inside. They went to right to Trist against [senior American center Stephen] Lumpkins and he delivered.”
American managed to keep it close until early in the second half. With Lafayette up by only three, Seth Hinrichs ‘15 hit a shot from downtown to double the Leopard lead. On the inbounds play, freshman point guard Bryce Scott got caught by a swinging elbow from American point guard Daniel Munoz ‘13, who was called for an intentional foul.
Scott went to the line for two free throws.
The freshman up-and-comer drained both buckets, and Hinrichs hit another three on the subsequent play, amounting to eight points on one trip to the offensive end of the court.
The burst took 12 seconds off the clock, and just like that, Lafayette had extended a three-point lead to 11. American never recovered.
“It really helped us separate,” senior Levi Giese said. “We built a nice lead and it gave us a comfortable place to play from.”
Scott and Hinrichs both contributed 14 in the Lafayette victory. It was the final regular-season game for Johnson and Giese, both of whom have been critical to the team this season.
“We played as well as we have all year,” O’Hanlon said. “This is a team that’s given us a lot of trouble, and I can’t say enough about Tony and Levi during the regular season in leading us in every game in so many ways.”
The seeds for the Patriot League Tournament are officially set following Saturday’s action. Bucknell had the first overall seed locked up the previous week and will face the eighth-seeded Navy, while No. 3 Lehigh hosts sixth-ranked Colgate and No. 4 Army takes on No. 5 American. Lafayette, meanwhile, is set to play seventh-ranked Holy Cross.
“Everyone’s pretty tough, whoever we play,” O’Hanlon said. “We went there and they were winning [the whole game] except for the last two seconds. They’ve lost some heartbreakers this year…they’re physical, and we have to be ready to play.”
“I think everybody’s rolling on all cylinders right now,” Johnson said. “I think we have a lot of momentum going into the playoffs on Wednesday against Holy Cross.”
If the Patriot League bracket plays out according to seeding, Lafayette will host Lehigh at Easton for the Tournament Semifinal.
The Leopards take on the Crusaders Wednesday, at 7 pm, at the Kirby Sports Center.