The men’s basketball team travels to Washington, D.C., to face No. 2 seed American in the Patriot League Tournament Semifinal round 5 p.m. Sunday at Bender Arena in Washington, D.C. The game can be seen on CBS College Sports.
If the Leopards win, they will advance to the Patriot League Tournament title game for the second time in two seasons, facing the winner of No. 1 seed Bucknell and No. 4 seed Lehigh 4:45 p.m. Friday, March 11.
(The women’s basketball team fell to Lehigh Saturday night, 82-58, in a Patriot League quarterfinal contest.)
Tony Johnson ’13 has widened his offensive influence in the last five games. Johnson, who was averaging 7.3 ppg through the first 25 games, is contributing 13.2 ppg over the last five. That includes a career-high 29 points against American Feb. 26 when he shot 9-of-13 from the floor and 9-of-10 from the foul line. He also dished out six assists with two steals and just two turnovers. In the Patriot League Tournament Quarterfinal, Johnson scored 10 points while doling out four assists to go along with a career-high four steals.
Forward Ryan Willen ’12 needs 15 points to become the 37th player in Lafayette history to score 1,000 career points.
The No. 2 seed Eagles are coming off a 69-53 win over Colgate Wednesday in the Patriot League Tournament Quarterfinal. The Eagles finished with a 10-3 mark in conference play. American’s only conference losses came to Bucknell (75-60 and 66-60) and Navy (72-53).
Offensively, American is led by George Mason senior transfer Vlad Moldoveanu. An All-Patriot League selection, Moldoveanu is averaging 20.3 ppg and 6.3 rpg. He is coming off a 31-point game vs. Colgate and is averaging 30 points per game over the last three outings. Joining him at forward is junior Stephen Lumpkins (13.3 ppg), the team’s leading rebounder at 8.1 rpg.
In the backcourt, senior guard Nick Hendra is contributing 7.5 points and 3.7 assists per game while junior transfer (Georgia) Troy Brewer is averaging 11.5 ppg. He had 28 in the last meeting. Senior Steve Luptak (2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg) also has started every game. Junior Simon McCormack (2.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg), junior transfer (Vanderbilt) Charles Hinkle (4.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg), and sophomore Daniel Munoz (3.1 ppg, 1.3 apg) all have played key roles in the American backcourt.
In the victory against Holy Cross, Willen led all scorers with 19 points, 15 of them coming in the second half. Jim Mower ’13 netted 13 points while Jared Mintz ’11 and Levi Giese ’13 chipped in 12 and 10 points, respectively. Johnson scored 10 points while dishing out four assists to go along with a career-high four steals.
Lafayette maintained a five- to eight-point lead for most of the game, including 33-28 at halftime. Late in the game, Holy Cross started to make its move, pulling within 61-60 on a Devin Brown three in the corner at 4:42. It was just the second three-pointer of the night for Holy Cross, which shot 2-of-16 from beyond the arc.
A Willen three-point play placed Lafayette ahead 64-60 with 4:12 left. After a Holy Cross layup, Rob Delaney ’12 hit a crucial three-pointer at 3:22. Johnson drove and kicked to the corner where Delaney stroked a shot to lead 67-62.
Andrew Beinert’s layup and a pair of free throws by Mike Cavataio cut the Lafayette advantage back to one, 67-66, with 2:28 in the game. Cavataio was one of three in double digits for Holy Cross with 12 points.
Willen hit his biggest basket of the game on the next possession, draining a three-pointer from the wing off another Johnson feed as Lafayette led 70-66.
The Leopards got the ball back with 36 seconds left when Delaney slapped it away from Beinert and out of bounds. Lafayette passed it to Delaney, who hit both free throws. Lafayette led 73-68.
Beinert answered with a layup and the Crusaders (8-21) fouled Willen, who made two more free throws. Delaney added a layup to put the game away after the Leopards broke through full-court pressure. Three Leopards scored in the final 2:15 of the game, with Willen tallying five of the 10 points in the closing minutes.
Lafayette scored 21 points off Holy Cross’ 14 turnovers. Johnson finished with four steals and Ben Wheeler ’11 added three, all of his in the first half when Lafayette turned over Holy Cross 10 times. Andrew Keister scored 18 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, but was a non-factor for Holy Cross in the final four minutes with just one defensive rebound.