Dec. 2, 2009
EASTON, Pa. -
GAME 8 December 3, 2009
Matchup: Lafayette (4-3) at La Salle (3-2)
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
Site: Philadelphia, Pa.
Arena: Tom Gola Arena (4,000)
Radio: WSAN-AM Fox 1470 Dick Hammer
Series: La Salle leads 32-11
First Meeting: LC: 18-14, 01/17/1903
Last Meeting: LC: 83-63, 11/29/03
Last Lafayette Win: same
Fran O'Hanlon vs. La Salle: 1-2
MATCH UP: Lafayette (4-3) looks to snap a brief two-game slide, but will try to do so against Atlantic 10 foe La Salle on Thursday night in Philly. The Leopards are coming off a last-second home loss to St. Peter's on Monday (58-56). La Salle (3-2) will try to bounce back from a 81-63 loss to No. 3 Villanova on Saturday.
MINTZ, FROM THE FLOOR: Jared Mintz has put up big numbers in the scoring column for the Leopards and has done it quite efficiently. Mintz is currently ranked 14th in the country for field goal percentage, shooting 66 percent from the floor (39-of-59).
That shooting percentage includes a 9-of-9 night at St. Francis (Pa.), an 8-of-10 stint at NJIT, a 6-of-7 performance vs. Hartford and a 5-for-7 day at Georgetown. Mintz's season-worst performance came at Sacred Heart when he was
4-of-12, Lafayette's first loss. If you exclude that game from his shooting percentage, he is converting 75 percent from the field. The big man was held to just 1-of-4 shooting in his last outing vs. St. Peter's
MAJOR MINUTES FOR MOWER: Sophomore guard Jim Mower has come off the bench in every game this season, but has played starter minutes. Mower is second on the team in scoring with 12.3 ppg in 21 minutes per game. Perhaps just as impressive in his assist/turnover ratio at +3.8 (15/4). Mower had 11 points, two blocks, a steal and an assist vs. St. Peter's.
Mower is a Harleysville, Pa. native and played his high school ball at St. Joseph's Prep under former La Salle coaching legend Speedy Morris. Mower was an All-Catholic League honoree as a senior.
LAST TIME OUT: With the score tied 56-56 and three seconds left in the game St. Peter's (2-3) Wesley Jenkins drove to the hoop and drew a foul. Jenkins went to the line with 2.2 seconds left on the clock and made both of his free throws to beat Lafayette (4-3) 58-56 at Kirby Sports Center on Monday night. Michael Gruner initially tied the game 56-56 after making three free throws with 28 seconds left.
NEXT UP: Lafayette will travel to New Jersey to take on the Princeton Tigers on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m.
DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE: Junior forward Jared Mintz has been the Leopards' go-to guy during the 2009-10 season. Mintz's hard work in the off season has led to increased output on both ends of the floor. The junior already has a pair of double-doubles, contributing 20 points and 10 rebounds in the season opener vs. Wagner and following up with 18 and 10 against Hartford (11/24). Mintz now has four double-doubles for his career.
LEADING THE LEAGUE: Jared Mintz leads the Patriot League in field-goal percentage (66.1%) and is third in the conference in scoring (16.3 ppg). He is also fifth in rebounding (6.4 rpg) and sixth from the free throw line (85.4%). Sophomore Jim Mower ranks second in three-point percentage (50%) and fifth for three-pointers made (2.4 per game).
Lafayette leads the league in five categories: scoring offense (73.4 ppg), field goal percentage (48.4%), rebounding defense (32 per game), blocked shots (3.1 per game) and three-pointers made (8.0 per game). The Leopards are also second in free throw percentage (75.4%), three-point percentage (38.6%), steals (7.6 spg), assists (14.3 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (1.0).
SCOUTING LA SALLE: La Salle comes into Thursday's matchup with a 3-2 mark that includes wins against Hampton (83-80), Davidson (84-70) and Tulane (61-59) and losses to South Carolina (78-68) and most recently No. 3 Villanova (81-63).
Senior guard Rodney Green is leading the team in scoring (17.4 ppg), assists (14) and steals (10).
La Salle features a big lineup with senior guard/forward Kimmani Barrett stepping in at 6-6 while averaging 11.4 ppg. Senior forward Yves Mekongo (6-7), junior forward Jerrell Williams (6-8) and freshman center Aaric Murray (6-10) make up the rest of La Salle's starting five. Mekongo is averaging 10.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Williams chips in with 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while Murray leads the team in rebounding (8.0 rpg) and adds 11.0 ppg.
Williams, who is joined by his brother Terrell on the squad, scored 15 points and pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds (12 offensive)against Villanova. Murray poured in 15 points and grabbed 14 boards in his first career Big 5 game. Barrett led all scorers with 17 points.
John Giannini is in his sixth season as head coach at La Salle where he has a 74-81 mark. Giannini is La Salle's all-time winningest coach in Atlantic 10 play and has produced the program's only winning A-10 records since joining the league in 1995-96. The Explorers' fifth-place finish in the Atlantic 10 in 2008-09 marked the third time in the last five seasons the Explorers finished in the top half of the league.
100 AND STILL GOING: What do North Carolina basketball and Lafayette basketball have in common other than Nike sneakers? For both teams, the 2009-10 season marks 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.
198...AND COUNTING: Lafayette head coach Fran O'Hanlon needs two wins to reach the 200-win plateau.
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 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 been scored 10+ in both of those games.
In games against Wagner and St. Francis (Pa.), Lafayette had four players score in double figures.
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.
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 is the most recent addition from the D.C. area, an All-IAC Conference First-Team selection from Bullis Prep.
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 year, is averaging 11.1 ppg and leads the team with 16 assists. Gruner is averaging 8.4 ppg, has 14 assists and leads the team with 12 steals.
ON THE SIDELINE: The all-time winningest coach in Lafayette history and longest-tenured coach in the Patriot League, Fran O'Hanlon (Villanova, '70) enters his 15th season as the Leopards' head coach. A two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year recipient, 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 198-213 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. By no coincidence, during that span, Lafayette posted a 79-91 mark and was 38-44 in the league.
FRESH IMPACT: Freshman Tony Johnson has begun to make an impact on the court for the Leopards. Johnson is averaging 19.1 minutes per game and has 15 assists to nine turnovers, solid numbers for a freshman who has been asked to handle the ball often. Johnson is also third on the team in steals and rebounding. A 6-0 native of Folsom, Calif., Johnson is the only true point guard on the team.
Fellow first-year player Levi Giese has seen action in six games while averaging 2.0 points and 0.8 rebounds per game. A 6-9 forward, Giese comes from Tulsa, Okla. and brings solid perimeter skills.
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.
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.
THE PRESEASON POLL: Lafayette was chosen to finish eighth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll. The poll is voted on by the conference head coaches and sports information directors. Holy Cross was picked to finish first with 13 first place votes, followed by Lehigh, Bucknell, Army, Colgate, American and Navy.
IN THE RANKS: Seven of Lafayette's non-conference opponents were picked to finish within the top five of their respective leagues in the preseason polls. At No. 2, Long Island and Princeton are the highest ranked non-conference opponents the Leopards will face. Lafayette will tip off against six opponents from the Northeast Conference -- the most of any one conference on the Leopards' schedule.
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).
GRUNER GETS IT DONE: If senior Michael Gruner picks up where he left off last season, the Leopards will be in pretty good shape. Gruner has been a mainstay in the lineup the past two seasons. In 2008-09, he proved to be Lafayette'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.
This season, Gruner is contributing 8.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He had a standout performance against Saint Francis with 17 points and hit a running banked three-pointer before half to pad the halftime lead to 42-33. Gruner also chipped in with 10 points and four assists vs. Hartford.
Coming out of high school in Bethesda, Md., Gruner led his Walt Whitman 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 of Montrose Christian.
SUPER SOPHOMORE?: Sophomore forward Ryan Willen was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team in 2008-09. He was the first freshman since Andrew Brown '09 and the seventh freshman in school history to earn the accolade.
This season, Willen is averaging 8.9 points per game and is shooting 75.4 percent from the line. In addition to his work on the court, Willen is currently enrolled in organic chemistry, ethics, introduction to psychology, religions in world cultures and two labs.
LAFAYETTE ON TV: The Leopards will have 13 of their regular-season games televised during the 2009-10 season. The Leopards will also lead the Patriot League with seven nationally-televised games, as MASN (available through both DIRECTV and DISH Network) will air Lafayette's entire slate of home league contests on a tape-delay basis. Emmy-nominated local sports broadcaster Gary Laubach will handle all of Lafayette's play-by-play duties for the 13th straight season. Former Lafayette men's basketball coach John Leone will provide color analysis for the 11th season.
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 43nd 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.