Lafayette Opens Patriot League Play With 60-52 Win Over Preseason Favorite Holy Cross

Go Leopards! Senior Bilal Abdullah led the Leopards with 14 points a team-high eight rebounds.
Senior Bilal Abdullah led the Leopards with 14 points a team-high eight rebounds.

Jan. 12, 2008

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EASTON, Pa. - Lafayette opened Patriot League play with a 60-52 win over defending conference champ and preseason pick Holy Cross on Saturday at Kirby Sports Center. Senior Bilal Abdullah led the Leopards with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Matt Betley (13) and Andrew Brown (13) joined in double figures as Lafayette played its first home game after going on the road for eight.

The win was the first conference opener Lafayette has won since 2004-05 against Navy and the first time Lafayette has beaten Holy Cross to open Patriot League play since the league was founded in 1990-91.

A trey from Abdullah at 11:00 pulled the Leopards ahead, 16-15, a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the half. Lafayette held Holy Cross (9-5, 0-1) without a field goal from 11:38 in the first half to 19:48 in the second half. With 10 minutes left in the half Michael Gruner forced one of six turnovers by Holy Cross freshman Andrew Beinert and the play resulted in a Betley three-pointer to give the Leopards the 19-15 lead.

Lafayette (10-6, 1-0) went on a 10-3 run to extend its lead by as many 11 points (29-18) at 4:26 after Ted Detmer converted a three-point play. Lafayette took a 33-24 lead with just under two seconds left in the first half as Gruner drove the lane and finished a layup before the buzzer.

The Crusaders came out of the locker room and opened the scoring with five points by Beinert and a jumper by Alex Vander Baan to cut the Leopards' margin to 38-34 at 15:00. At the 10-minute mark, Colin Cunningham sank a trey to bring the Crusaders within three (43-40).

The team's exchanged baskets as the Crusaders whittled away at the Leopards' halftime margin to three points five times before taking the lead at 5:01 with a three by Beinert (50-48). It was the Crusaders' first lead since 11:39 in the first half. Beinert finished with a game-high 15 points and played all 40 minutes.

The Leopards reclaimed the lead, 51-50, on the following possession with a trey from Betley at 4:23. Lafayette continued to hold the slim one-point lead until Abdullah converted both free throws on a one-and-one at 2:05 to extend the advantage to 53-50.

On the next possession, Adam May went to the line for two free throws and sank both attempts to cut the lead to 53-52.

Betley slammed the door on the Holy Cross comeback with a three-pointer with 39 seconds left in the game and Lafayette led 56-52. Everest Schmidt blocked a rushed three-point attempt by Tim Clifford and the Leopards gained possession and forced Holy Cross to foul. Lafayette made 4-of-4 free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal the win. Clifford, the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year, finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three blocks while playing 37 minutes.

Lafayette held Holy Cross to 34 percent shooting from the field, the team's best defensive effort (statistically) since Dec. 3 when NJIT shot 32 percent.

Lafayette goes back on the road on Wednesday, traveling to Colgate for a 7 p.m. tip-off. Colgate (9-6, 1-0) is coming off a 50-44 win over Army on Saturday

• Lafayette men's basketball was welcomed home to Kirby for the first time since a Dec. 3 when they won 81-56 over NJIT by a crowd of 2,842 this afternoon.
• With two three's against Holy Cross, Andrew Brown is now tied for 12th on the single season record list with 51 in 2007-08. He is tied with Brian Ehlers (1999-00) and Paul Cummins (2005-06).
• Lafayette hit 10 or more three-pointers for the 13th time this season, going 10-of 21 led by four from Matt Betley and three from Bilal Abdullah.
• The Leopards are now 7-11 in Patriot League openers since the beginning play in the conference in 1990-91.
• Lafayette recorded its victory against Holy Cross in a conference opener and stands at 1-5 in openers against the Crusaders.
• Men's basketball has played 611 games against the seven members of the Patriot League, and has 337-273 record in all games against and 96-129 in regular season matchups.
Fran O'Hanlon is 14-13 against Holy Cross in his 13th season behind the bench on College Hill.
• The Leopards 17 field goals against Holy Cross were a new season-low, the previous low of 19 was set at Stony Brook (11/12/07) and at Mississippi State (1/5/08).



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