Stephens Leads Leopards Past Susquehanna
EASTON, Pa. – The only misses for freshman E.J. Stephens on Monday evening came from the foul line as the rookie went 6-for-6 from the field and 3-of-3 from three-point range for a season-high 20 points to lead the Lafayette men’s basketball team to an 82-70 win over Susquehanna at Kirby Sports Center.
Stephens topped out his season-high on the glass as well, ripping down eight boards to go along with an assist and a block on the night. Senior co-captain Matt Klinewski and junior Paulius Zalys each added 15 points, while Eric Stafford, the other senior co-captain chipped in with 11 points, three assists and two steals.
Susquehanna hung tough throughout the contest as senior center Ryan Traub proved to be a force on the low block with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-17 from the field. Tyler Hoagland ran the offense well for the visitors with eight assists to go along with his eight points, two boards and a steal.
Lafayette battled through some tough outside shooting once again, going 8-of-26 from distance (30.8%) and 25-for-60 overall (41.7%). The River Hawks finished at 25-of-56 from the field (44.6%) and 7-for-19 from three-point range (36.8%).
Monday’s contest was the first in nine days for the Maroon and White coming off a break for finals week to close out the fall semester. The win improves their record to 2-8 on the season, while Susquehanna falls to 4-6.
Coming off an offensive struggle at Sacred Heart, it was much of the same to start the game as the Leopards began 2-for-8 from the field and trailed by a 10-5 score after four minutes. The River Hawks continued to execute to the midway point of the opening half, extending their lead to 10 at 18-8.
Stephens provided a spark off the bench, scoring seven straight including an emphatic finish above the rim to help Lafayette pull back within four at the 8:14 mark, 19-15. The margin stood at two possessions until sophomore Kyle Stout found space down the middle of the lane for an open bucket and free-throw’s from Klinewski tied it at 28 with 2:23 left.
Klinewski scored five of the final eight for the Leopards down the stretch, pushing Lafayette to a 36-31 lead at the halftime break.
The second half started as a back-and-forth affair with Traub answering an opening Klinewski bucket with two of his own to cut it to 38-35 with 18:54 to play. The Leopards were able to hold off an early River Hawks run, though, as an Alex Petrie three under the 15-minute mark stretched the home advantage to eight, 48-40.
Susquehanna kept coming as seven-in-a-row from Traub took the game under the 12-minute mark with the Lafayette edge at just two, 51-49. A drive-and-finish from freshman Justin Jaworski put the Leopards in front at the 8:20 mark, but Susquehanna’s Jordan Harnum answered with a floater on the other end to take the game into the under-eight media timeout tied at 58.
The River Hawks hung tough through to the final stretch before Zalys created some separation with a finish through a foul at the 3:45 mark that sparked seven straight to expand the lead to nine, 76-67, with 1:37 remaining. That cushion proved large enough to sustain through the final moments as Lukas Jarrett’s free-throw’s put the cap on an 82-70 victory.
Lafayette has one more non-conference contest before Patriot League play kicks off on Dec. 29 against Lehigh. The Leopards will travel to Cornell on Wednesday for a meeting with the Big Red at 7 p.m.