Valley Showdown

Go Leopards! Leopards look for a win and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Leopards look for a win and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

March 9, 2010

EASTON, Pa. -

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GAME 32

Matchup: Lafayette (19-12) at Lehigh (21-10)
Tip-off: 4:45 p.m.
Site: Bethlehem, Pa.
Arena: Stabler Arena (5,600)
Radio: 1470 AM (Dick Hammer, Scott Morse)
TV: ESPN2 (Jon Sciambi, LaPhonso Ellis)
Internet: ESPN360.com

Series: Lafayette leads 138-74
First Meeting: 01/27/1902 • LU 46, LC 13 in Bethlehem
Last Meeting: 02/21/10 • LC 90, LU 75 in Easton
Last Lafayette Win: 02/21/10 • LC 90, LU 75 in Easton
Last Lehigh Win: 01/23/10 • LU 75, LC 57 in Bethlehem
Fran O'Hanlon vs. Lehigh: 20-12

THE MATCHUP: Lafayette it making its first appearance in the Patriot League title game since the 2000 season and is in search of its fourth NCAA Tournament berth. The 2001 season was the last time Lafayette faced Lehigh in the Patriot League Tournament (quarterfinal s), but Friday's contest will be the first time the two teams, which have played 212 times previously, will square off with an NCAA Tournament appearance on the line.
    The Leopards are coming off a thrilling three-point victory over Holy Cross on Sunday at Kirby Sports Center, a place Lafayette has never lost a Patriot League Tournament game (6-0). Lehigh never let No. 4 seed American get anything going, winning 79-57.

ABOUT THE SERIES:
Lafayette has dominated the all-time series (138-74) that first tipped off in 1902 and has encompassed 212 games. For the current players, it has been a see-saw battle with the teams splitting the last eight games including 2009-10 when each team won on its home court. (complete series information on page 5).

HOW FAR THEY'VE COME:
Lafayette was unanimously selected to finish last in the eight-team Patriot League in the preseason poll of coaches and sports information directors. No doubt the Leopards used that as a measure of motivation, spurring them to finish the conference slate at 8-6, one game out of second place after sitting atop the standings for much of the 2009-10 season. The Leopards improved their season win total by 11 following an 8-22 campaign in 2008-09 and are now one win away from the NCAA Tournament. Lafayette's last NCAA Tournament appearance was 2000, the second of two straight for Lafayette.

SCOUTING LEHIGH: Lehigh (21-10) won the Patriot League regular-season title and is playing for a chance to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance.
    The Mountain Hawks have won their last four games, with their last loss coming at Lafayette on Feb. 21. Lehigh beat Bucknell and Holy Cross to close the Patriot League regular season with a 10-4 mark. Wins over Army and American followed in the Patriot League Tournament.
    Lehigh has an experienced squad, but it is freshman C.J. McCollum who makes the team go. The Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year is leading the team in scoring (18.9 ppg) and averaged 25.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in the two meetings with the Leopards.
    McCollum's backcourt mate Marquis Hall is a three-time All-Patriot League selection. He leads the team and is second in the Patriot League with 5.6 assists per game. He is also second on the team in scoring (11.3 ppg), as one of three players averaging double figures. Senior Dave Buchberger (6.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg) has started 30 games and junior Michael Ojo (6.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg) has also played in every game.
    Up front, Lehigh is guided by senior Zahir Carrington who is the team's top rebounder (6.6 rpg) and contributes 10.5 ppg. Freshman forward Gabe Knutson has also been a significant contributor (9.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
    Lehigh is coached by Brett Reed (Eckerd '95) who is in his fourth season (50-39).

SEASON PERSPECTIVE: Lafayette's 19 wins are the most since 1999-2000, when the Leopards won a school-record 24 games. The eight conference wins were the most since 2003-04 (9-5).

A CHANCE TO MAKE HISTORY:
Jared Mintz has a chance to become the first Patriot League player to lead the league in free throw and field goal percentage in the same season. Mintz is shooting a Patriot League-best 54.2 percent from the floor (ahead of Lehigh's Gabe Knutson 52.2%). He is hitting 87.33%  (131-150) from the line, ahead of Navy's Chris Harris (87.25%, 178-204) whose season is over.

WE GO AS WE SHOOT:
While some teams' defensive effort sparks their offensive output, Fran O'Hanlon has said that the opposite is true for the Leopards.
    Accordingly, it's not surprising that Lafayette has been successful when it shoots well. Lafayette is 16-0 when shooting 45 percent or better from the field and 3-12 when shooting 44 percent or worse.

SPEAKING OF SHOOTING: The Leopards' have won four of their last five games and the three balls have been falling when the team has been successful. Lafayette hit a season-high 16 three-pointers on Feb. 21 in a 90-75 win over Lehigh and followed with 14 in a win at Army. The Leopards connected for just six in a loss at American to close the regular season. In the Patriot League Tournament, Lafayette hit 10 vs. Colgate and nine versus Holy Cross, both wins. In that five-game span, sharpshooter Jim Mower had four, eight, zero, four and five. The Leopards are 8-1 in games when they make 10 or more three's.

LAST TIME OUT: The No. 3 seed Leopards beat No. 7 seed Holy Cross, 66-63, in front of a near-capacity crowd for the Patriot League Tournament semifinal. Four Leopards scored in double figures led by Jim Mower's 17 points. Ryan Willen (15), Jared Mintz (14) and Jeff Kari (10) also reached double digits. Mintz's game-winning basket in the paint with 35 seconds left was the first game-winning shot of his career (at any level). 

SEVEN-ELEVEN: Eleven of Lafayette men's basketball players earned a 3.0 or better GPA in the fall semester led by Mike Gruner's 3.8 GPA. Seven managed a 3.2 or better.

ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT: Senior guard Michael Gruner has been named to the ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District II Men's Basketball First Team, the only Patriot League player to achieve the honor. Gruner holds a 3.63 GPA while majoring in Economics & Business. Coming to Lafayette from Walt Whitman High School, Gruner was named a Marquis Scholar, the highest academic award given by Lafayette. To be eligible for selection, a student-athlete must be a starter or key reserve while maintaining a minimum GPA of 3.3.

NCAA INDIVUDAL RANKINGS: The latest national rankings show Jared Mintz ranked 26th in the country in free throw percentage (87.3%). Until recently, Mintz was ranked in the top 20 for field goal percentage, but just slipped below the minimum for field goals attempted (5.0). He is shooting 54 percent from the floor. Sophomore Jim Mower is fourth nationally for three-point field goal percentage (47.4%) (rankings as of 3/7).

AT THE LINE: Lafayette is ranked sixth in the nation (3/7) and first in the Patriot League in free throw percentage (76.2). The Leopards made all 19 of their free throws against Colgate, the best mark in the nation this season, topping Kentucky's 18-of-18 effort on Dec. 19.

HONORED BY THE LEAGUE: Lafayette head coach Fran O'Hanlon has been named the Patriot League Coach of the Year for the third time in his career and Jared Mintz (First Team) and Ryan Willen (Second Team) earned All-Patriot League status. (See page 3 for a complete release).

STEAL FORCE: Senior guard Michael Gruner's quick hands have made him one of the conference leaders in steals this year. Gruner ranks third in the league with 1.7 steals per game and leads the Leopards with 49 steals this season.

100 AND STILL GOING: Lafayette is in the midst of the 100th season of men's basketball. Lafayette's first season was 1900-01, but the school did not field a team from 1903-04 to 1912-13.

HOME AT HOME: Lafayette has never lost a Patriot League Tournament game at home, going 6-0 (2-0 this season), but is 0-5 when playing on the road. The Leopards are 6-12 in neutral site games.

AT HOME: Coming into the season, head coach Fran O'Hanlon and the team set "taking care of our home court" as a goal for the squad. Lafayette responded, registering an 13-3 mark at Kirby Sports Center. Lafayette is 6-9 on the road.

ON THE SIDELINE: The all-time winningest coach in Lafayette history and longest-tenured coach in the Patriot League, Fran O'Hanlon (Villanova, '70) is in his 15th season as the Leopards' head coach. A three-time Patriot League Coach of the Year, O'Hanlon has twice led Lafayette's program to the NCAA Tournament and lays claim to three Patriot League regular-season titles.
    With a 75-71 double-overtime victory over Lehigh on Feb. 18, 2007, O'Hanlon became the winningest coach in Lafayette history and now holds an all-time record of 213-222 on College Hill. O'Hanlon's overall record does not necessarily tell an accurate story of the job he has done at Lafayette. The Philadelphia native inherited a 2-25 team when he took over in 1995-96 and won seven, 11, 19, 22 and 24 games over the next five seasons. From 1997-2000, Lafayette was 65-24 overall and 31-5 in the conference with two NCAA Tournament appearances. In 1996, the Patriot League, which was originally founded based on the principle of need-based financial aid only, began allowing athletic scholarships. However, it was not until 2006 that Lafayette chose to do so and 2009-10 is the first year, that Lafayette has four classes of scholarship players. From 2000-01, when scholarships began taking hold in the league, through 2008-09, O'Hanlon's record was 95-135.

MINTZ=CONSISTENCY FROM THE FLOOR:
Junior forward Jared Mintz has been the mark of consistency for the Leopards in 2009-10. He has scored in double figures in 22 of 30 games and has been the Leopards' leading scorer from the outset of 2009-10. The Toronto, Ontario native has been an efficient scorer, shooting 54 percent from the floor. His season shooting percentage includes a 9-of-9 night at St. Francis (Pa.), a 6-of-7 performance vs. Hartford and a 5-for-7 day at Georgetown.

...AND THE LINE: Jared Mintz is even more efficient when he gets to the free throw line. Mintz is shooting a 87 percent, making 131-of-150 attempts. Mintz shot a perfect 10-of-10 from the line in a win against Army (1/27). He was 8-of-8 from the line at Delaware and vs. Wagner (11/13), 6-of-6 against Holy Cross, 8-of-9 at Colgate, 8-of-9 at Navy and 7-of-7 at home versus Colgate. Against Navy (2/13), Mintz shot 9-for-9 from the line. 

MOWER'S MAJOR MINUTES:
Sophomore guard Jim Mower played the first seven games off the bench and has started every game since. Mower enjoyed a breakout game vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (12/9), scoring 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and has been one of the team's most consistent shooters ever since. Mower hit for 25 points against LIU (12/12) on 6-of-7 shooting from the three-point range, a performance that helped earn him his first Patriot League Player of the Week nod. Mower had a career-high 26 points at Army (2/24) and led the team in scoring in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal vs. Colgate (19) and the semifinal vs. Holy Cross (17). 
    The Harleysville, Pa. native is second on the team in scoring with 13.9 ppg in 26 minutes per game. The statistic that stands out the most for Mower is his assist/turnover ratio which is +1.9 (61/32).

LIVE BY THE THREE...DIE BY THE THREE:
Lafayette is 28th in the nation (as of 3/7) in three-point field goal percentage (38%) and 21st for three-pointers made per game (8.2), but just 321st of 334 teams for three-point field goal percentage defense (38.7%).

A HELPING HAND: Lafayette has dished out assists on 63 percent of its baskets in the 2009-10 season. At Holy Cross, Lafayette had 14 assists on 16 buckets (88%), the Leopards' worst shooting night all season. That assist percentage mark topped 22 assists on 26 buckets (85 percent) at St. Francis, N.Y. Lafayette's worst performance of the year in terms of assists per basket came in a win against Wagner (9 assists, 25 FG) when the Leopards made up for it by hitting 26-of-31 free throws. In its last outing, Lafayette had 18 assists on 21 baskets (86%) vs. Holy Cross.

STREAKING: Lafayette had a season-long six-game winning streak snapped at Lehigh (1/23). In that span, the Leopards beat Bucknell, Navy, Colgate, Holy Cross, Columbia and Penn. Lafayette also managed two three-game winning streaks earlier in the season. The Leopards also own a four-game and a three-game losing streak.

IF YOU'RE SCORING AT HOME...:
Lafayette is averaging 75.9 points per game at home and 73.5 ppg on the road.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE MINTZ: Junior Jared Mintz posted his third double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds in the Leopards' win over Bucknell  on Jan. 20. It was also the fifth double-double of his career. The junior contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds in the season opener vs. Wagner (11/13) and had 18 and 10 against Hartford (11/24).

200 AND STILL GOING: Lafayette head coach Fran O'Hanlon reached the 200-win plateau on Dec. 12 with the Leopards' victory over Long Island. He is the only Lafayette coach to win 200-plus games.

"O" REACHES P.L. LONGEVITY MARK: With his 435th game at the helm of the Lafayette program, Fran O'Hanlon holds the Patriot League all-time mark for games coached. He surpassed retired Bucknell coach Pat Flannery (412).

HANDLING THE BALL:
Lafayette boasts a positive season assist/turnover ratio for the first time since 2000-01 (+1.03 • 434/422). Lafayette is +1.14 (471/412) this season. Lafayette had a 1:1 assist/turnover ratio in 2003-04 (429/429).

WILLEN ... PLAYER OF THE WEEK X 2:
Sophomore guard Ryan Willen earned Patriot League Player of the Week honors in consecutive weeks. Willen averaged 22.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in two games for the Leopards, who won contests at Colgate (1/13) and Navy (1/16) to win Jan. 18. Willen had 19 points and five boards in 19 minutes in a 95-82 win at Colgate and followed that with 26 points (one shy of his career high), eight rebounds and five assists to lead Lafayette to a 90-77 win at Navy. Willen was Lafayette's first player to receive the honor in consecutive weeks since Brian Ehlers on Feb. 15 and 22, 1998.
    His first Player of the Week honor (1/11) followed a span when he scored a career-high 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting vs. Columbia (1/6) and registered a 20-point, seven-rebound night vs. Holy Cross in the conference opener Jan. 9.
    Academically, the Biology major posted a 3.42 GPA in the fall semester while enrolled in Organic Chemistry, Ethics, Introduction to Psychology, Religions in World Cultures and two labs.

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH -- THE PATRIOT LEAGUE PRESEASON POLL:
Lafayette was chosen eighth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll. The poll was voted on by the conference head coaches and SID's. Holy Cross was picked to finish first with 13 first-place votes, followed by Lehigh, Bucknell, Army, Colgate, American and Navy.

FACEBOOK/TWITTER:Fans can follow Lafayette basketball on Facebook at facebook.com/lafayette.leopard and Twitter at twitter.com/goleopards .
 
ON THE BLOCK: Senior center Marek Koltun earned the one block he needed against Holy Cross (3/7) to move into Lafayette's all-time top 10 in blocks with 52. He is tied with Andrei Capusan '06.

FABULOUS FRESHMAN TO SUPER SOPHOMORE?:
Sophomore forward Ryan Willen was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team in 2008-09, the seventh freshman in school history to earn the accolade.
    This season, Willen is averaging 12.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and has 50 assists. He posted 13.9 ppg and 4.9 rpg in Patriot League games.
    Willen had a career-high 27 points against Columbia when he was 9-for-11 from the field (82%).
    In addition to his work on the court, Willen is enrolled in Organic Chemistry, Introduction to Neuroscience, Quantitative Methods, Applied Behavior Analysis and a lab for the spring semester.
 
FRESH IMPACT: Freshman Tony Johnson has made a positive impact on the court for the Leopards. Johnson is averaging 18 minutes per game and has 43 assists to 31 turnovers, solid numbers for a freshman who has been asked to handle the ball often. Johnson is also third on the team in steals (29). A 6-0 native of Folsom, Calif., Johnson is the only true point guard on the team. Johnson was 7-for-7 from the line and finished with nine points while also adding three assists in 18 minutes against FDU (12/9). He had a standout game in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal vs. Colgate, contributing six points, two assists and two steals in 18 minutes.
    Fellow first-year player Levi Giese has seen action in 25 games while averaging 1.4 points and 0.9 rebounds per game. A 6-9 forward, Giese comes from Tulsa, Okla. and brings solid perimeter skills. Giese played 12 minutes vs. Colgate.

LAFAYETTE VS. THE PATRIOT LEAGUE: Lafayette has played 655 games against the seven members of the Patriot League, and has a 356-299 record in all games against them. In Patriot League play, Lafayette is 112-157 in the regular season and 12-17 in the Patriot League Tournament. Under Fran O'Hanlon, the Leopards are 98-104 in conference regular-season play.

American    16-26   
Army     36-22 
Bucknell    85-60
Colgate    40-46   
Holy Cross     16-31   
Lehigh    138-74   
Navy    25-40

Meet the Captains: Senior guards Jeff Kari and Mike Gruner are holding leadership roles for the 2009-10 season. Kari, who served as a co-captain last season, played in all 30 games as a junior, starting 27 and was second on the team in scoring. This season, the Lisle, Ill. native is averaging 9.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg and 2.4 apg. Coming out of high school, Kari was an all-state selection at Lisle Senior High School where he set seven school records and was a two-way player on the football team (wide receiver and defensive back).
    Gruner is averaging 7.0 ppg and leads the team with 87 assists (2.8 apg) and 49 steals (1.7 spg). He was a mainstay in the lineup the past two seasons. In 2008-09, he was the team's steadiest ballhandler, dishing out 61 assists to 44 turnovers for a 1.4 assist/turnover ratio and 196 points (8.2 ppg). Gruner is also a Marquis Scholar, the college's most prestigious academic scholarship. Coming out of Bethesda, Md., Gruner led his Walt Whitman high school squad to the Maryland 4A state title while earning Gazette Co-Player of the Year honors along with the NBA's 2007-08 Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant then of Montrose Christian.

SIX IS GOOD: The Leopards had six players score in double figures against Hartford on Nov. 24. Jared Mintz led the way with 18, followed by Darion Benbow (career-high 15), Michael Gruner (13), Jim Mower (13), Jeff Kari (10) and Ryan Willen (10). The last time Lafayette had six players score in double figures, including all five starters, was Nov. 28, 2007 in an 81-69 win over Penn. Gruner is the only Lafayette player to have scored 10+ in both of those games.

AROUND THE WORLD: Three international players are featured on the roster for tonight's matchup. Lafayette boasts three international players in Jared Mintz (Toronto, Canada), Marek Koltun (Krakow, Poland) and Deirunas Visockas (Lithuania).

THE HARDWOOD AND THE GRIDIRON: Lafayette's win over Penn on Jan. 3 marked the third time the Leopards defeated the Quakers in both football and basketball. The 77-62 victory over Penn combined with the 20-17 (OT) Lafayette football win at Fisher Stadium on Sept. 26, 2009, marked the third time the Leopards defeated Penn in football and basketball in the same season. In 2007, the basketball team defeated Penn 81-69 and defeated its football team 8-7. In 1999, football won 20-12 at Franklin Field and the basketball team notched an 83-72 win.

FRESH FACES: Head coach Fran O'Hanlon added two new coaches to his staff this season. Pat Doherty is a familiar face to the Lafayette program, graduating from Lafayette in 2004. Doherty was an assistant coach at Williams College in 2008-09, helping lead Williams to a 17-9 overall record. In 2007-08 Doherty served as an assistant coach at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). Matt Blue holds down the final assistant coaching spot. Blue, a 2007 graduate of St. Lawrence comes to Lafayette after spending the 2008-09 season at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa. He helped lead the Crusaders to an 18-8 overall mark and a 13-3 finish in the Landmark Conference.
 
SOLID START: The Leopards' 4-1 start was the best since 2003-04 when Lafayette began the season 6-1. Lafayette finished 18-10 that season.

NEC TITLE?: The Leopards finished a slate of six games against Northeast Conference (NEC) teams with a 5-1 record, beating Wagner, St. Francis (Pa.), Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island and St. Francis (N.Y.) with the only loss coming to Sacred Heart.

BASKETBALL IQ: Lafayette placed a program-best three student-athletes on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll during the 2008-09 season. The distinction recognizes those individuals who have earned a varsity letter and maintained a 3.2 GPA during the spring semester. Senior Michael Gruner and sophomores Rob Delaney and Andy Moore each earned a nod.

ABOUT LAFAYETTE COLLEGE: Located in Easton, Pa. (70 miles west of New York City and 60 miles north of Philadelphia) on the banks of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers, Lafayette is a small liberal arts school with a renowned engineering program. Lafayette, which has 23 Division I sports with a student body of 2,403 undergraduates, competes in the Patriot League with Army, Navy, Bucknell, Holy Cross, Colgate, American and Lehigh. Lafayette is the alma mater of Pete Carril and Tampa Bay Rays' manager Joe Maddon.

D.C. DANDIES: Though players from 11 states and three countries are represented on Lafayette's roster, the Leopards feature three from the geographic cluster that is the D.C. Metro area. Prior to arriving on College Hill, three of Lafayette's guards attended schools within 25 miles of the nation's capital. Michael Gruner shined at Walt Whitman High School, where he led his team to a state championship. Junior Ben Wheeler played at Chantilly where he garnered first team all-district and second team all-region accolades his senior year. Sophomore Nick Petkovich was an All-IAC Conference First-Team selection from Bullis Prep.

ON THE RADIO:
The road games of the 2009-10 Lafayette men's basketball season will air on WSAN-AM 1470 "The Fox." Entering his 43rd season as the radio voice of Lafayette athletics, Dick Hammer will continue to call the play-by-play action. Joining Hammer courtside for most contests will be Lafayette Sports Information Director Phil LaBella.

LAFAYETTE ON TV: The Leopards have had a league-best 16 games televised during the 2009-10 season. The Lafayette Sports Network showed 12 Lafayette home games in the Lehigh Valley and to all of Philadelphia along with RCN television audiences in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. Six of those contests were also available nationally on a tape-delay basis on MASN. Emmy-nominated local sports broadcaster Gary Laubach handled all of Lafayette's play-by-play duties for the 13th straight season. Former Lafayette men's basketball coach John Leone provided color analysis for the 11th season.
    MASN carried the Lafayette at Georgetown game live on Nov. 28. CBS College Sports aired the Lafayette-Lehigh game on Feb. 21 and the Lafayette-American game on Feb. 27. Friday's game will be available to 96 million households on ESPN2 with Jon Sciambi and LaPhonso Ellis calling the action.


 

 

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