Defensive Effort Sparks Victory at American
WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was all about defense and rebounding on Saturday afternoon at Bender Arena in Washington, D.C. as the Lafayette men’s basketball team won a battle with American by a 62-53 score.
Tied at 48-48 into the final media timeout, the Leopards made the plays down the stretch when it counted to pull away. A three from freshman Justin Jaworski pushed a lead that had been one possession either way throughout the second half out to four at 55-51 and, from there, a couple stops and foul shooting was enough to seal it.
Senior co-captain Matt Klinewski extended his double-figure scoring streak to 22 games with a game-high 17 points, 16 coming in the second half of play. Freshmen Alex Petrie and Justin Jaworski rounded out the offense for the Maroon and White, posting 14 and 11 points, respectively. Junior Paulius Zalys also registered a solid outing with five points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal.
The glass and ball security were weapons for Lafayette on Saturday, edging American on the boards by a 39-28 margin, including nine rebounds on the offensive end. After a nine-turnover first half, the Leopards made the adjustments in the second, coughing it up just twice over the final 20 minutes.
Despite a 4-for-15 mark on the day from distance (26.7%), the Leopards finished with a 40.8 percent overall mark from the field (20-for-49), and got 18 points from the foul line in 22 attempts. On the home side, American went 22-of-58 from the floor (37.9%), 3-of-21 from beyond the arc (14.3%) and 6-of-8 from the charity stripe.
The victory improves Lafayette’s overall record to 5-14 and 3-5 in Patriot League action. American drops to 5-14 on the year and 2-6 in conference play.
As is typical against an American team that plays a slower offensive style, the game started choppy with the Eagles taking a slim three-point lead into the opening break in play. Senior co-captain Eric Stafford’s reverse layup across the lane at the 12:17 mark made it a one-point game, but a 10-2 run with seven off the hand of American’s CB Diallo took the game under the eight-minute mark with the Eagles’ lead at eight, 18-10.
A three from Jaworski out of the break halted that run, but the Eagles ran off another nine straight before sophomore Myles Cherry’s post bucket with 4:33 left in the half made it 27-15. Lafayette closed the stanza strong with seven of the final nine points as Zalys’ free throw sent the game into the halftime break with the Leopards down seven, 29-22.
Picking up right where they left off, an 8-2 stretch to open the second half, capped off by a Klinewski jumper from the left baseline, brought the Leopards within three at the first media timeout, 35-32. Both sides went cold for a stretch after that, but back-to-back buckets from Klinewski on either side of the six-minute mark gave the Leopards their first lead of the game at 46-44 with 5:44 remaining.
American’s Larry Motuzis found Sam Iorio for a bucket at the rim to send the game to its final media timeout knotted at 48-48. Both sides traded buckets to the 1:15 mark before a clutch triple from Jaworski on the right wing put it officially out of reach at 55-51. Defensive stops and free throws finished off the Leopards’ third league victory with a final of 62-53.
Next up for Lafayette as it goes for a winning streak is a return home on Wednesday, hosting Boston U. at Kirby Sports Center at 7 p.m.