In the first round of the Patriot League Tournament, the Lafayette men’s basketball team held off American University to advance to the quarterfinals of the postseason tournament. The 93-86 win for Lafayette over American, the tournament’s seventh and 10th seeds respectively, tied the team’s season high in points.
The win set the Leopards up to play second seeded Colgate University, whom they faced yesterday. The result of that game was not available by deadline for print.
In the American game, senior forward Matt Klinewski scored 23 points and senior guard Eric Stafford paced the team’s offense with 12 points. Meanwhile, freshman guard Justin Jaworski poured in 20 points with five assists, and Alex Petrie contributed 17 points. Lafayette’s seniors and freshmen combined for 74 out of the team’s 93 points.
“They’re good players and they know how to shoot the ball,” Stafford said about the three freshman guards, Jaworski, Petrie and freshman guard E.J. Stephens.
“My role as a senior leader, as our coach always says…is to set an example on the court: how you are supposed to play and how hard you are supposed to play. As a team, we have developed. Early in the season, it’s tough to know exactly what shots we’re supposed to take. I think our offense continuously gets better as our season goes on, meaning we all know what spots we’re supposed to be in and we get to spots quicker.”
The Leopards’ win was not all smooth sailing though, as American sophomore guard Sa’eed Nelson kept the Eagles in the game almost singlehandedly. He finished with a career-high 41 points while dishing out 9 assists as well.
On Jan. 5, Lafayette upset Colgate in Hamilton, NY, 71-68, and then later went on to upset them again Jan. 31, 93-83, at Lafayette. Stafford mentioned how the defense needs to improve from the American game with “more stops” and “more sense of urgency” if they want to beat Colgate again in the next round.
“I’ve always felt that we have matched up well with Colgate,” Stafford said. “It’s one of those intangible things where you don’t know why. We have good guard play, as I think our guards match up well with their guards, and also Klinewski inside. I don’t think they really have anybody that’s willing to battle with Klinewski.”
Keys to Lafayette advancing into the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament will be containing their senior point guard Sean O’Brien and to communicate through the plethora of screens Colgate is willing to set.
Three Leopards also earned individual awards this week. Petrie was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year, Stafford was named to the Academic All-Patriot League Team and Klinewski was named to the Patriot League second team.