A banner day

Men’s basketball wins home opener after loss to GW

After a loss to George Washington University in their season opener last Friday, the Lafayette men’s basketball team defeated St. Peter’s University by one point on their home court, finishing a tough weekend with a 1-1 record.

Despite a solid second half performance at GW, the final score read 85-76, sending the Leopards home with their first loss. After heading into the locker room down 50-28 at half, junior co-captain Nick Lindner took over, scoring 17 of his 27 total points in the final 20 minutes of the game.

Unfortunately, Lindner’s strong performance wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit and GW’s impressive defense. Lafayette made just 20 of 60 field goals and struggled behind the three-point line, sinking just seven of 25.

A quiet showing from senior co-captain Bryce Scott had his teammates picking up the slack. Senior Zach Rufer and junior Monty Boykins both ended with 13 points, while sophomore Matt Klinewski added 12 of his own.

The Leopards’ next matchup was just two days later as they welcomed St. Peter’s for their home opener. The afternoon began with great excitement as the Patriot League Championship banner was unfurled and ended with an equal amount when the game headed into overtime, finally ending 87-86 in Lafayette’s favor.

“It was kind of a nightmare of a game for the first two halves,” Lindner said. “I was struggling from the field, making bad decisions all around. My head wasn’t in it and then my teammates and coaches just picked me up and kept confidence in me the whole time.”

After leading by as much as 17 points in the first half, Lafayette allowed St. Peter’s to battle back. The Peacocks went on a 12-3 run late and sent Lafayette into halftime up just 39-34.

Foul trouble accounted for some of these points as Lafayette adjusted to five different players having two fouls each by the half, and the team tallying 13 total.

The Leopards’ deep bench helped accommodate this issue in the second half. Ten of head coach Fran O’Hanlon’s 13 healthy players found the court last Sunday, four of them reaching double-digit points.

“That was cool,” said Boykins of his career-high 16 points. “I was really just proud of a good offense, really just getting open shots with Nick drawing people and kicking it for threes.”

“He somebody who’s capable of scoring on a couple of levels,” O’Hanlon added. “He can score three and he can score under the basket, and he’s one of our better drivers. His role has expanded and we hope that he can do those things.”

Klinewski started the second half with a layup, pushing the lead to seven, but was followed by an “and one” for St. Peter’s as senior Nate Musters drew his third personal foul. Freshman Paulius Zalys sank two threes and Scott added one more to push the lead back up to eight.

This was the largest lead Lafayette would see for the remainder of the matchup. Some turnovers by the Leopards and timely shots by St. Peter’s kept the Peacocks within five until finally taking the lead with 37 seconds left.

Fifteen seconds later Klinewski was fouled during a put back and made both shots to tie the game at 72. After a long possession, solid defense by senior Zach Rufer and a missed jumper by St. Peter’s the buzzer blew, sending the game into overtime.

St. Peter’s came out of the break strong, going on an 11-2 run. With just two minutes remaining, Lafayette’s chances looked slim—until Lindner took over. In the final 1:17 Lindner scored eight of his 10 overtime points with the help of a solid press to push Lafayette past the young St. Peter’s squad by one with 12 seconds remaining.

With a missed layup by St. Peter’s and a steal in the final seconds by Rufer, Lafayette secured the victory. Lindner ended the game with 22 points, while Scott and Klinewski added 16 and 12, respectively.

“I’m really proud of my guys, we don’t want to let the last two minutes tarnish that,” St. Peter’s coach John Dunne said. “But we’re going to learn from it clearly. Coach Fran’s teams are never gonna give up, they’re never gonna put their head’s down until the last minute. They have a really good player in Lindner, and he made some nice big buckets for them down the stretch.”

Lafayette plays again tomorrow at NJIT at 4 p.m.

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