Leopards Exact Revenge on Army in Kirby
EASTON, Pa. – Revenge was sweet for the Lafayette men’s basketball team on Wednesday night at Kirby Sports Center, leading nearly wire-to-wire in a decisive 81-54 victory over Army.
The Leopards, who surrendered a 19-point lead with 19 minutes to go in West Point, N.Y. on Jan. 11 in an 81-71 defeat, put those memories to bed, following up a 21-point halftime lead with a six-point second-half edge to cruise to the 27-point win. The victory is the largest margin for the Maroon and White against a D-I opponent since a 77-50 victory at Robert Morris to open the 2014-15 season on Nov. 14, 2014.
Lafayette dominated the game in a number of statistical categories including a 39-26 edge on the glass. The Leopards shot 28-of-54 from the field (51.9%), their fifth game over 50 percent this season, and 10-of-20 from three-point range (50.0%), the third of that variety on the year.
Freshman Alex Petrie led all scorers with 23 points, going 9-of-9 from the charity stripe and 6-of-12 from the field overall. Classmate Justin Jaworski, senior co-captain Matt Klinewski and freshman E.J. Stephens rounded out the double-figure scorers with 14, 14 and 10 points, respectively, while junior Paulius Zalys added six points and three assists to his 10 rebounds to pace the Leopards on the glass.
On the other side, Army was led by 11 points from Jordan Fox and 10 from Matt Wilson. The Black Knights, averaging 41.2 percent from three on the year coming into the game, were run off that line throughout the night, making just 6-of-28 from distance (21.4%) and 22-of-62 overall (35.5%).
It was a defensive battle to start as Petrie’s finish through a foul was the lone offensive spark of the opening four minutes with the Leopards in front, 5-4. Points remained difficult to come by as the half approached its midway point with Army’s Luke Morrison drilling a three from the left wing to put the visitors in front by one with 11:34 on the clock, 11-10.
Lafayette made its move over the next four-minute stretch as a 10-2 run capped off by a Dylan Hastings put-back layup put some cushion in the Leopard lead, up nine, 22-13. The Leopards kept pouring it on into the four-minute timeout as back-to-back finishes above the rim extended the advantage to 16, 37-21.
Kyle Stout’s three and a Stephens layup through two defenders forced another Army timeout at 3:08 with the score at 42-21. Army tried to cut into the lead late as a Wilson layup with 2:11 left got it under 20 at 42-24, but the Leopards weren’t allowing momentum to slip going into the locker room as Jaworski nailed a jumper through a foul with 2.6 seconds left on the clocks to send the game to intermission at 45-24.
Lafayette stepped on the gas right at the start of the second half with seven straight including five from Klinewski to force an Army timeout and balloon the lead to 28, 52-24. Out of that break, though, the Black Knights reeled off seven unanswered of their own to take the game to its 16-minute timeout with the score at 52-31.
The Leopards didn’t let that run turn into a threatening comeback as they answered out of the timeout with six straight of their own and led by 22, 58-26, with 11:48 to play. Three’s rained over the next three minutes as Petrie and Jaworski (twice) connected from deep to make it 69-41 in the final stretch.
Stopping that Army run proved to be the final straw in the comeback bid as the Leopards’ lead never got below 26 for the remainder of the game, seeing it out with a final of 81-54.
Lafayette stays at home through the weekend, hosting Loyola on Sunday for a 12 p.m. tip. That game will be aired on national television through the CBS Sports Network.