Men’s basketball trashes Lehigh in rivalry matchup
By Michael Kowaleski ‘14
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Saturday, February 16, 2013 17:02
7:30 am wakeup call on Sunday morning. Breakfast at 8. 8:30 nap (for some players.) 9:45 departure. 10:15 arrival at Lehigh’s campus. Warm-ups at 11. Tipoff at 12.
Noon games throw off Coach Fran O’Hanlon’s usual schedule.
“We have no time for shootarounds before the game,” the men’s head coach said. “We usually have a morning shoots at 9 or 10 before a 2 o’clock game, and a 12 or 1 o’clock shootaround for a 7 o’clock game. For this game, we didn’t have a shootaround.”
The Brown and White were missing star point guard C.J. McCollum ‘13, who broke his foot January 5 against Virginia Commonwealth. But Coach O’Hanlon wasn’t about to underestimate the Mountain Hawks.
“They won five in a row [without McCollum] and they just beat North Texas,” he said. “They have three or four of the best eight players without [him].”
Before the game, O’Hanlon sketched the game plan to his team. He wanted to keep Lehigh out of the middle, because, as he said, “Once you contain them, you can limit their open looks.” Making Lafayette’s job a little more difficult was the fact that standout sophomore forward Dan Trist ‘15 was in a limited role. Trist is, as O’Hanlon described, the Leopards’ inside presence.
After the tipoff, the Leopards and Mountain Hawks traded blows for about nine minutes until they were locked up at 11. Lehigh’s Stefan Cvrkalj ‘15 committed a turnover to give Lafayette the ball. During that possession, point guard Tony Johnson ‘13 hit a three to give the Leopards a 14-11 lead. On the next possession, Joey Ptasinski ‘15 hit a trey. On the next possession, Levi Giese ‘13 hit a shot beyond the arc. All of a sudden, Lafayette was up 24-13.
They never looked back.
“That’s what we do as a team,” Ptasinski said. “We shoot, we make threes, we can go on runs like that. We had to focus on our defense after that.”
The sequence was a crucial one in the game, according to O’Hanlon.
“[Lehigh] really rides on emotion,” he said. “If you can somehow get off to a good start, you can match their energy early. Then it becomes a game. The three shots in a row were a huge momentum boost early on.”
Lafayette never lost the lead after the three straight threes, and led by as much as 25 over the course of the game. Despite their massive advantage, Ptasinski said the Leopards stayed alert and focused, as if they were up by only a couple points.
“Once you get that cushion, you worry about giving that lead back,” the sophomore guard The initial early start did not seem to bother the Leopards, which demolished the Hawks 78-57 to break a five-game losing streak at Bethlehem. Giese scored a team-high 17 points, and four other players joined him with double digit scoring.
Their next game, at home at Colgate, could have been considered a “trap game” after the blowout victory at Lehigh. The Leopards did not lose focus, though, and won by an even greater margin, dominating the Raiders 69-40. With the two victories, Lafayette moved to 11-12 overall and 4-2 in the Patriot League, which puts them securely in second place. They stand a game back behind both Bucknell and Lehigh.
Lafayette will travel to American to face the 8-14 American Eagles on Saturday to try and gain some ground.