Lafayette Emerges From Holiday Break to Host Towson

Go Leopards! Lafayette hosts Towson on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Lafayette hosts Towson on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Dec. 27, 2008

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GAME 11 December 28, 2008

Matchup: Lafayette (2-8) vs. Towson (5-6)
Tip-off: 1:00 p.m.
Site: Easton, Pa.
Arena: Kirby Sports Center (3,500)
Television: none
Radio: WSAN-AM Fox 1470 Dick Hammer (Play-By-Play), Scott Morse (Color Analyst)
Internet: LSN All-Access

THE MATCHUP: Lafayette emerges from its holiday break with a three-game homestand. The Leopards host Towson on Sunday at 1 p.m., the first of two straight games against opponents with the Tiger nickname. Lafayette will welcome Princeton on Tuesday and Mount St. Mary's on Friday, Jan. 2. The Leopards are 2-8 while Towson is 5-6, last playing at Bowling Green on Dec. 22.

LEOPARD LEADERSHIP: Senior guard Andrew Brown and junior guard Jeff Kari are serving as the team captains. Brown is the lone member of the class of 2009 and is the team's leading scorer (14.9 ppg). He has played in 97 games in his career. Kari played in 30 games in his first season on College Hill after transferring from East Carolina and is one of the most improved players in the league. After averaging 4.0 ppg and 1.7 rpg in 2007-08, he is now averaging 14.1 ppg and 4.4 rpg.

LAST TIME OUT: Stanley Pringle scored 17 points and Jamelle Cornley had 16 to lead Penn State to an 83-55 victory over Lafayette on Sunday, Dec. 21 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Talor Battle contributed 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as the Nittany Lions (10-2) shot 60 percent from the field. Cornley made 7-of-8 shots and Pringle was 8-for-11. Jared Mintz led Lafayette with 10 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Mintz was 4-for-4, and the big man also hit a three-pointer. The Leopards' leading scorers, Andrew Brown and Jeff Kari, both came in averaging more than 15 points per game, but were held to eight and four, respectively. Lafayette committed a season-low 10 turnovers, but it was the shooting that let down the Leopards. Lafayette shot a season-low 22 percent (8-of-36) from the beyond the arc while hitting 36 percent from the floor. Lafayette kept it close in the first half, cutting a nine-point lead with five minutes to go to just two with 2:40 left. Brown and Nick Petkovich both hit three-pointers and Alex Orchoswki converted an and-one opportunity, as Lafayette trailed 29-27. Penn State closed the half with a 7-2 run to lead 36-29.

WELCOME TO COLLEGE: Head coach Fran O'Hanlon hasn't been afraid to use the seven members of his freshman class this season. Ryan Willen, Jim Mower and Alex Orchowski have played in all 10 games, while Nick Petkovich has played in nine, J.D. Pelham eight, and Rob Delaney (with one start) and Andy Moore seven apiece. Willen continues to lead the team in rebounding with 4.2 per game while also contributing 7.3 ppg in 21 minutes per game off the bench. Willen's clutch free throw shooting helped secure Lafayette's win at Wagner. In the last four minutes, the Seahawks went on an 8-3 run, closing in on Lafayette's lead 70-67, before fouling Willen with 11.4 seconds remaining. The rookie sank both free throws, making it a two-possession game. Willen finished with seven points and three rebounds.

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 2,382 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.

SCOUTING TOWSON: Towson comes into Sunday's game with a 5-6 mark, coming off a 77-58 loss at Bowling Green on Dec. 22. The Tigers were 13-18 last season and finished 7-11 in the CAA. Senior forward Junior Hairston is the team's leading scorer (14.3 ppg) and rebounder (6.0 rpg) and is coming off a double-double performance at Bowling Green. He is shooting 45 percent from the floor for the season. In the backcourt, Towson has a mixture of youth and experience with freshman Troy Franklin and junior Josh Thornton. Franklin is the team's leading distributor of the ball, averaging 5.7 assists while contributing 10.7 points per game. Thornton is the third of three scorers averaging in double figures at 10.1 ppg. Lafayette won the 2007-08 series installment, pulling away for a 79-69 overtime win. Bilal Abdullah, Deirunas Visockas and Matt Betley each hit three-pointers in the extra session that was forced by Michael Gruner's acrobatic putback with 8.1 seconds left in regulation. The Tigers are coached by Pat Kennedy (King's '75), who is in his fifth year at the helm. Kennedy is in his 29th season as a head coach and has 466 career wins.

SERIES NOTES: Towson is set to return the second game of a home-and-home series with the Leopards. Lafayette leads the all-time series 14-6, beating Towson in overtime (79-69) last season on Dec. 19. That was the first meeting since 1999.

NEXT UP: The Leopards continue their three-game homestand, hosting Princeton on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Lafayette will then welcome Mount St. Mary's after the New Year on Friday, Jan. 2 at 1 p.m.

THRIVING WITH THIRTY: Andrew Brown's 30-point production against Robert Morris was the fourth such game of his career. Brown first drained 30 points as a sophomore on Jan. 20, 2007, at archrival Lehigh. He accomplished the feat twice as a junior, scoring 32 at Mount St. Mary's on Dec. 21, 2007, before notching his career high against Army (34 points) on Jan 30, 2008.

WELCOME BACK, GRUNER: Junior guard Michael Gruner looked like his old self against Robert Morris, tallying a season-high 11 points and four rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. At Penn State, Gruner played 29 minutes, contributing seven points, four assists and two rebounds in 29 minutes. Gruner, who sat out six games from Nov. 18 to Dec. 4 with a thigh contusion, returned to the court with a five-minute stint at Fordham on Dec. 8. Gruner was a mainstay in the starting lineup in 2007-08 and proved to be Lafayette's steadiest ballhandler, dishing out 72 assists to 46 turnovers for a 1.6 assist/turnover ratio. Gruner is a Marquis Scholar, the most prestigious academic scholarship awarded to Lafayette students.

BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE: The Leopards converted 15-of-18 (83.3 percent) from the free throw line against Robert Morris on Dec. 18 - their best showing of the season. Brown made all seven of his attempts and is the team's most consistent free throw shooter at 78.6 percent. Lafayette is shooting 71.1 percent (133 of 187) from the charity stripe for the season and leads the Patriot League.

BEHIND THE ARC: Lafayette is averaging a shade below nine three-pointers per game (8.6), good enough to place the Leopards 26th in the nation through games of Dec. 21 In 2007-08 Lafayette ranked fifth in the nation with 10.0 three-pointers made per game. Individually this season, Andrew Brown leads the team with 30 three-pointers (3.0 per game) and made a season-high seven vs. Robert Morris on Dec. 17. He is ranked 55th in the nation in three-pointers per game. Jeff Kari and Brown rank in the top 10 in the Patriot League for their three-point field goal percentage. Kari's 35.8 percent is eighth while Brown's 34.9 percent sits at 10th. Brown is third in the conference with 3.0 treys per game.

PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT FOR BROWN: Senior guard Andrew Brown was selected to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team in late October. Brown was an All-Patriot League Second-Team pick at the end of the 2007-08 season after leading the Leopards in scoring 14 times and averaging a team-best 15.9 ppg. He also led the team in assists (85).

MOVING UP THE SCORING CHARTS: Brown is climbing the all-time career scoring list. This season his 149 points have catapulted him from 35th to 18th among career scoring leaders, and he now has 1,180 career points. He recently surpassed Mike Whitman '82 (1,176 pts) and is tied with Stu Murray '57 (1,180) for 18th place. He needs 31 points to catch Bill Anderson '19 (1,211 pts.) in 17th place. ASCENDING THE ASSISTS LIST: Brown is also climbing career assists list. With four assists at Penn State, Brown increased his total to 38 for the season and 301 for his career moving past Jay Mottola '72 (297) into tenth place. He needs five more to pass Tim Bieg '01 (305) and claim the ninth spot on the list.

FROM DOWNTOWN: Brown's hot hand from behind the arc last year helped him cement his name in the Lafayette record books. Brown owns the school record for most three-pointers in a game (nine), most three-point field goal attempts in a season (247) and most treys made in a season (99). After sinking 30 treys this season, he now has 250 three-pointers to his name and needs 22 more to break the career record held by Tyson Whitfield '01.

ON THE SIDELINE: The all-time winningest coach in Lafayette history and the longest tenured coach in the Patriot League, Fran O'Hanlon (Villanova, '70) is in his 14th 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 among his credentials. 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 188-196 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 7, 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.

LAFAYETTE ON TELEVISION: The Leopards have 15 games televised at home. Fourteen telecasts will be produced by the Lafayette Sports Network (LSN). The Leopards garnered national exposure on ESPNU when they visited Penn State on Dec. 21 and will again when they travel to Lehigh in late February. Emmy-nominated local sports broadcaster Gary Laubach will handle all of LSN's play-by-play duties for the 12th straight season. Former Lafayette men's basketball coach John Leone will provide color analysis for the 11th season and will be joined by Dan Mowdy on the sidelines.

KEEP IT UP, KARI: Junior guard Jeff Kari never seems satisfied with his career highs. He has either set or tied his career high in points in five games this season. He set his career high with 15 points in the season opener at Wagner. He reset his career high against Stony Brook with 16 points, and again hit for 16 points against Temple. He then bested that mark with a 21-point performance against Rider. Kari isn't just a scoring threat. He tied his career high in assists (seven) against Hartford and grabbed a career high in rebounds (nine) against Rider. In the Rider and Temple games, he led the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. Kari is averaging 14.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and is second on the team in both categories.

LOTS OF THREE BALLS AT HARTFORD (12/4): Lafayette made a season-high 15 three-pointers at Hartford on Dec. 4. It was the first time since Jan. 2, 2008 at Pittsburgh when they made 15 or more. Those 17 treys at Pitt were the most allowed by a Panther opponent in the program's history. In a related note, Lafayette's 21 assists at Hartford also marked the first time the team dished out 20+ assists since it recorded 21 assists against Army on Jan. 30, 2008.

WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?: Andrew Brown can distribute the ball. The Littleton, Colo. native led the team in assists his first three years on College Hill. Brown dished out 94 assists (3.1 apg) as a sophomore and started 27 of 30 games. He had 84 assists as a freshman, starting all but three games, and was the first freshman during the Fran O'Hanlon era to lead the team in assists. Brown finished his junior year with a team-high 85 assists in 30 games (2.8 apg), despite taking a more active scoring role. This season, Brown has 38 assists through 10 games (3.8 apg). Brown can shoot the ball too. He averaged 9.3 ppg as a freshman when he hit 51 three-pointers and followed that by scoring 10.4 ppg while netting 69 three-pointers in his second season on College Hill. In 2007-08, Brown led the Leopards in scoring 14 times and has continued that trend five times this season, averaging 14.9 ppg. Brown is stellar from the line. In his sophomore year, he shot 91 percent from the charity stripe, connecting on 42-of-46 attempts. Last season, Brown went to the line 82 times and hit for 83 percent. He reached the line a career-high 10 times in the season opener, connecting on eight, and is shooting 78.6 percent this season in 42 attempts. Brown makes big shots. Last year at Stony Brook, Brown went 7-for-8 at the line with five of those makes coming in overtime. Brown was responsible for the tying baskets that sent the Stony Brook and UMBC games to overtime. At Mount St. Mary's, Brown's ninth three-pointer of the game came in overtime and gave Lafayette a 76-72 win. With 48 seconds left in overtime at Navy, a Brown three claimed the lead for the Leopards (97-94) before they went on to win it 103-99. SEEING DOUBLE: Freshman Ryan Willen seems to be adjusting to college just fine. The Cape Girardeau, Mo. native posted a double-double against Stony Brook (11/18), tallying 15 points and 10 rebounds. It was the first double-double performance since Feb. 23, 2008, when Bilal Abdullah '08 tallied 19 points and 13 rebounds against Lehigh. Willen's performance was the first double-double by a freshman since Abdullah achieved the feat on Jan. 13, 2005, posting 21 points and 10 rebounds. Two games later against Rider, he nearly tallied another double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. Willen leads the team in rebounding with 4.9 boards per game and is the fourth-leading scorer with 7.3 points per game.

LOOKING BACK: The last time Lafayette started off the season with a 2-0 record was in 1998-99. In that season, the Leopards defeated Dartmouth, 56-41, and Princeton, 63-47. Lafayette went on to earn a 22-8 record, including a 10-2 record in the Patriot League, and secured a berth to the NCAA Tournament after winning its first Patriot League championship (against Bucknell). Even more impressive, Lafayette achieved all that success despite losing the preseason Player of the Year Stefan Ciosici for the entire season and the 1997-98 Rookie of the Year Tyson Whitfield for seven games in the middle of the conference schedule.

D.C. DANDIES: Though players from 11 states and three countries are represented on Lafayette's roster, the Leopards do have a preference for the D.C. 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. Sophomore Ben Wheeler played at Chantilly where he garnered first team all-district and second team all-region accolades his senior year. Freshman Nick Petkovich is the most recent addition from the D.C. area, an All-IAC Conference First-Team selection from Bullis Prep.

THE PRESEASON POLL: Lafayette was picked eighth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll voted on by the conference head coaches and sports information directors. Defending champion American was selected to repeat followed by Lehigh, Holy Cross, Colgate, Bucknell, Navy and Army.

WORKING OVERTIME IN 2007-08: The Leopards set an NCAA single-season record with five overtime wins on the road (at Navy -- 103-99 on Jan. 19, at Colgate 69-68 on Jan. 16, at Princeton -- 76-71 on Jan. 9, at Towson -- 79-69 on Dec. 19 and at Stony Brook -- 78-67 on Nov. 12) in 2007-08. The lone win at home in overtime came Nov. 20 vs. UMBC (87-84) to give the team a total of six overtime victories and tie the NCAA team record for overtime victories in a season. Wake Forest (6-1 in 1988-89) and Chattanooga (6-0 in 1983-84) share the mark. Fran O'Hanlon is 16-10 in overtime.

IN THE RANKS: Seven of Lafayette's non-conference opponents were picked to finish within the top five of their respective leagues in the pre-season polls. At No. 1, Mount St. Mary's is the highest ranked non-conference opponent the Leopards will face. Lafayette will tip off against five opponents from the Northeast Conference -- the most of any one conference on the Leopards' schedule.

BASKETBALL IQ: Lafayette placed a program-best five student-athletes on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll during the 2007-08 season. The distinction recognizes those who have earned a varsity letter and maintained a 3.2 GPA during the spring semester. Junior Michael Gruner and sophomores Deirunas Visockas and Ben Wheeler along with graduated players Matt Betley and Paul Cummins earned the nod.

ON THE RADIO: The entire 2008-09 Lafayette men's basketball season will air on WSAN-AM 1470 "The Fox." Entering his 42nd season as the radio voice of Lafayette athletics, Dick Hammer will continue to call the play-by-play action. Joining Hammer courtside will be Lafayette Sports Information Director Phil LaBella.

 

 

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