It was a frustrating start for the Lafayette men’s basketball team.
There were the five consecutive losses. The two overtime disappointments. Not to mention the long-range buzzer-beater from Yale. To make matters even worse, the Leopards held leads in each of those five games.
“We felt we were doing the right things and playing hard,” freshman point guard Nick Linder said. “It was not a matter of effort.”
But now, following two straight victories, it all seems much clearer for Lafayette (2-5). It was first the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday and then Wagner College on Tuesday.
The 79-76 victory against the Quakers came with its dramatics, and that all seemed fitting after the streak of close games Lafayette has experienced.
A last second heave from Penn rattled in-and-out, forcing a small skipped heartbeat for those in attendance at the Kirby Sports Center.
“We did a good job defending which we hadn’t done up to that point,” said captain Seth Hinrichs, who led Lafayette with 28 points, tying his career high. “Especially late in the game, our defense was better than it had been. That helped us get over the hump there.”
It was the fourth straight game Hinrichs scored more than 20 points.
Forward Dan Trist ‘15 was unable to play against Penn due to a sprained AC joint in his shoulder he suffered against Yale.
“I got caught in an awkward angle on a back screen and popped my shoulder a bit strange,” Trist said. “It’s taken most of the week to feel normal again.”
Trist has been a frequent visitor in the training room each day to receive treatment. He was able to play 21 minutes in a 77-65 victory on Tuesday night and contributed 12 points and three rebounds.
“It still has been really stiff and everything but it may loosen up completely by Saturday [against Sacred Heart],” Trist said. “We’re trying to get that win on Saturday and then I can take the time I need to get it better.”
Lafayette used an 18-2 first half run to propel itself out of an early 10-5 deficit. Hinrichs and guard Joey Ptasinski hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
“When we came back and went on that 18-2 run, everyone was feeling pretty confident,” Hinrichs said. “We weren’t trying to force shots.”
Sophomore guard Bryce Scott led Lafayette with 18 points while Linder added 17.
Linder has been playing particularly well lately and was recently awarded his first Patriot League Rookie of the Week award following the victory against Penn. He scored a career high against Yale and then added 12 points and four assists to just one turnover against the Quakers.
The Doylestown, Pa. native has become more accustomed to the speed of Division I basketball through each of his first seven games.
“That’s the biggest adjustment, the speed of the game,” Linder said. “Coaches have been helping me watch film and prepare.”
“I know guys like Seth and Dan and other older guys instill a lot of confidence in me. I have to thank them and the coaches.”
Trist said the two consecutive victories are in large part due to the continued improvement of Linder.
“I think Nick is coming on tremendously,” Trist said. “It helps us so much. He can keep the ball wherever he wants on the court.”
Next up for Linder and Lafayette is a trip to Fairfield, Conn. tomorrow to square off against Sacred Heart University before a ten-day layoff.
Players will return home on Dec. 20.