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Mountain Hawks Soar To Patriot League Lead

February 23rd. 2004

By Ted Rossman
 

Lehigh (17-8, 10-2 PL)

With only two games remaining for each team in the Patriot League regular season, Lehigh has broken Lafayette’s stranglehold on the top spot, thanks to a 78-73 victory over its arch-rival on Senior Day at Stabler Arena. A record crowd of 5,206 witnessed the back-and-forth battle, a rematch of the incredible 111-104 overtime victory Lafayette posted on its home floor in the first meeting between these two clubs a month ago.

Kevin Tempest’s 13 points made him the 9th different Mountain Hawk to lead the club in scoring during a game this season, and a Dayne Mickelson tip-in with 29 seconds remaining iced the win for Lehigh in a back-and-forth game that saw neither team able to break away from the other.

The Sunday afternoon win over Lafayette followed up a 68-63 victory over Army on Friday night. Freshman Jason Mgebroff continued his stellar season by pouring in a career-high 25 points. Army wouldn’t go away, despite trailing 19-9, but Lehigh was too much for the Black Knights, as the bench ignited a 16-0 second half run that proved to be the difference.

This weekend, Lehigh seeks an outright regular season championship as it visits Colgate and Holy Cross. The Mountain Hawks defeated both teams earlier this season at Stabler Arena.

Lafayette (18-7, 9-3 PL)

It was a disappointing weekend for Lafayette, as the club dropped consecutive games for only the second time all season. Lafayette was blitzed by Bucknell, 79-61, on Friday night at Sojka Pavilion, and fell 78-73 to arch-rival Lehigh on Sunday afternoon. The Leopards managed just one field goal during a 10 minute stretch in the second half, and for the first time all season had only one player in double-digits (Winston Davis with 18).

Lafayette looks to regroup this weekend with home games against Navy and American. Thanks to their strong computer ranking, the Leopards win tiebreakers against both Lehigh and Bucknell, so a #1 seed in the upcoming league tournament is a distinct possibility for Lafayette, who defeated both Navy and American on the road earlier this season.

Bucknell (13-12, 9-3 PL)

No team is hotter in the Patriot League than Bucknell, which has now won 10 of its past 11 games. Sunday afternoon at Sojka Pavilion, the Bison played one of the best defensive games in recent history, downing Army 75-25. The Black Knights shot a woeful 18 percent (8 of 45) from the floor, and were dangerously close to scoring the fewest points since the advent of the shot clock (21, Georgia Southern vs. Coastal Carolina, 1997). Only two Travis Owsley three-pointers in the final minute allowed Army to creep over the 20 point mark.

On Friday night, Bucknell used a 21-7 run early in the second half to blitz Lafayette, 79-61. The Bison are now tied with the Leopards for second place in the league, and still harbor hopes for at least a share of the regular season league championship. The Bison play at Holy Cross and Colgate this weekend.

American (14-12, 8-4 PL)

The American Eagles have quietly stayed alive in the race for a high seed in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament. The Eagles posted wins over Holy Cross and Colgate at home this weekend, keeping their chances alive for a top three seed, and assuring no worse than a fourth-place finish.

On Friday night, the Eagles used a strong defensive effort to help coach Jeff Jones earn his 200th career victory. American forced Holy Cross into 20 turnovers and 32 percent field goal shooting in posting their first-ever Patriot League sweep over Holy Cross.

Sunday afternoon was Senior Day at Bender Arena, and Andres Rodriguez celebrated in grand fashion, notching 17 points and 7 assists and hitting seven of eight free throws in the game’s final two minutes. Colgate had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but Mark Linebaugh’s long three-pointer caromed away and the Eagles’ faithful began to celebrate.

American wraps up its regular season this weekend at Army and Lafayette.

Holy Cross (11-14, 5-7 PL)

Holy Cross looked poised for a run at the upper half of the Patriot League standings after back-to-back wins two weeks ago, but the Crusaders’ play of late has been inconsistent, and will relegate the three-time defending league tournament champions to no better than a fifth-place finish.

The club lost its second consecutive game on Friday night at American, as an uninspired second half allowed a tie game to slip away. The final was 65-51, as the Crusaders were outscored 27-13 over the game’s final nine minutes.

Sunday afternoon, the Crusaders came out with similar defensive intensity, holding Navy to 11 first-half points in a 76-47 road victory. Kevin Hamilton, Keith Simmons, and Jave Meade led the way with thirteen points apiece for the purple and white.

Holy Cross hosts red-hot Bucknell on Friday night before celebrating Senior Day on Sunday afternoon versus Lehigh. The Crusaders look destined for the fifth seed in the Patriot League Tournament, and can clinch the spot with a win or a Colgate loss.

Colgate (12-13, 4-8 PL)

One need look no further than their two games this weekend to say that the Colgate Raiders are an enigmatic basketball club. Friday night saw the Raiders nearly blow a 15 point lead at 3-20 Navy before holding on for a 60-59 win. The Raiders committed 20 turnovers in a sloppy game where Navy countered with 22. Alvin Reed led three Raiders in double-figures.

Sunday afternoon, the Raiders brought a much better brand of basketball to the floor, but fell 65-62 at American. Colgate, which seems to always play American tough, battled back from a 12-point second-half deficit and had a chance to tie the game as time expired, but Mark Linebaugh’s desperation three-pointer was off target.

With a chance to finish anywhere from fifth to seventh in the league, Colgate will be looking to pull an upset this weekend as they host Lehigh and Bucknell.

Army (6-18, 3-9 PL)

The Black Knights followed up an inspired two game stretch – their first win at Colgate since 1977 and a tough 68-63 loss at Lehigh on Friday night – with a forgettable performance on Sunday afternoon at Bucknell.

Army shot 8 of 45 from the floor and committed 16 turnovers along the way to a 75-25 loss. The Black Knights clearly want no part of Bucknell in the league tournament, as the combined score in their two meetings this season was 131-48 in favor of the Bison.

Home games against American and arch-rival Navy are on tap this weekend at Christl Arena to close out the regular season. Army is hoping to move up from its current seventh position in the league, and holds the tiebreaker with sixth place Colgate should a tie occur, thanks to a season sweep of the Raiders.

Navy (3-22, 0-12 PL)

For the second straight game, Navy came tantalizingly close to tasting a Patriot League victory on Friday night. The Middies rallied from an early 19-4 deficit to visiting Colgate only to fall by one, 60-59, in the kind of game that makes one wonder if the victor might have been different had play continued for another minute or two. Carlton Baldwin keyed the Navy comeback with a career-high 26 points, including 16 straight at one juncture.

Perhaps the comeback effort exhausted Navy, because on Senior Day at Alumni Hall the Middies looked uninspired in a 29-point drubbing at the hands of Holy Cross. Navy shot 28 percent in the final home game for longtime coach Don DeVoe, who is retiring at season’s end.

Navy closes out its conference schedule with road games at Lafayette and Army this weekend, and is still searching for its first 2003-04 Patriot League victory.



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