Lafayette’s men’s basketball team extended their win streak to five this past weekend with a sweep of the Loyola Greyhounds. The wins boost the Leopards overall record to 5-1 on the season as they sit atop their mini-conference with a record of 3-1. Both games went down to the wire, but the Leopards tough defense allowed the team to secure the victories.
The Leopards managed to squeak out a two point victory on Saturday, 1/23, with a score of 77-75. While Lafayette did not win the game in commanding fashion, the team excelled at the fundamentals which drove them to victory. The team was excellent passing the ball, notching 21 assists with junior guard Tyrone Perry leading the team with 6 apples. The exceptional ball movement enabled the Leopards to shoot 45% from deep, making 14-31 from deep.
The teams began the contest trading buckets until the eight minute mark of the first half. With the game knotted at 25-25, the Leopards went on an 8-0 run to take a 33-25 lead with just under four minutes left in the half. Lafayette managed to maintain the lead and close out the half strong, taking a 10 point lead into the break, leading 44-34.
Patriot League star Justin Jaworski and the sharp shooter seven footer Leo O’Boyle led the Leopards with 16 first half points apiece. Jaworski carried his momentum into the second half and totaled 25 points in the contest. O’Boyle continued to shoot the long ball with confidence as well, totaling 19 points on a 5-10 performance from three. Stephens also managed to get into double figures with 12 points after sitting early due to foul trouble.
“E.J., Leo, and the rest of the team force defenses to focus on all aspects of our offense,” Jaworski said. “Even the guys that don’t show up as much on the stat sheet are doing a great job of finding open shooters.”
Lafayette carried their first half momentum into the second as O’Boyle drained a three pointer at the 12-minute mark to give the Leopards a 16-point lead, their largest of the game. The Leopards maintained control for almost all of the second half, but with two minutes remaining the Greyhounds mounted a ferocious comeback.
In the final two minutes of regulation, and trailing by 10, Loyola went on a commanding 10-2 run to make it a 74-72 game with 15 seconds remaining. Clutch free throw shooting from E.J. Stephens, reigning Patriot League Player of the Week, and freshman Kyle Jenkins allowed for the Leopards to hold on for a two-point victory.
The Leopards ability to cash in at the charity stripe proved to be the difference in the rollercoaster game as the Leopards shot an impressive 91.7%, going 11-12, from the free throw line. The Greyhounds, on the other hand, cashed in on a dismal 54.8% of their attempts at the line, shooting 14-21.
Sunday’s game (1/24) was another nail biting two point victory for the Leopards. The Greyhounds scored first and held a lead as the teams traded buckets until the nine minute mark of the first half. With the scored knotted at 15 the Leopards went on a 14-4 run to take a 10 point lead with 4:21 remaining in the first half.
The teams once again began trading buckets and the Leopards held the lead until the one minute mark of the first half. Loyola managed to close the half on a 5-0 run though and cut the Leopards lead to 35-30 heading into the break.
“Our guards are such great scorers,” Quinn said. “I worked hard on my shooting this offseason. As a result, the defense has to stay honest. Improving my jump shot has helped the guards tremendously.”
The Leopards big man ranks third in assists in the Patriot League with 5.2 APG and led the team with 5. Stephnes notched five assists as well and the team totaled 18 in the contest.
Although the Leopards saw their lead dwindle down the stretch, they never found themselves trailing in the second half . Patriot League points per game leader Jaworski (23.0 PPG) canned a mid-range jump shot with a minute to go giving the Leopards a three-point lead. Quinn followed it up with a beautiful dish to Stephens for a dunk.
“E.J. just had a really good backdoor cut,” Quinn added, when asked about the play. “We work on backdoor cuts in practice all the time so it was straight out of practice.”
Following a layup to cut the lead to two, the Greyhounds had a chance to tie or win the game with three seconds remaining on the game clock. Greyhound sophomore Santi Aldama missed a three-point attempt which gave the Leopards another weekend sweep.
Jaworski totaled 22 points. O’Boyle continued to shoot the ball well with another 50% three-point effort and 19 points. Two more Leopards found themselves in double digits scoring as Neal Quinn finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds. Freshman Kyle Jenkins also continued his upwards trend, finishing the weekend with an 11-point performance.
“It is such a challenge for a defense to guard guys that can consistently make shots like that,” Quinn said. “Plus, it frees me up to have some one on one opportunities throughout the game.”
Even though the Leopards have won five games in a row, it has been somewhat of a struggle for the team to close out games.
“We can’t let our guard down,” Jaworski said. “It is really about putting a strong forty minutes together. No matter what the score is, we must always play with the same intensity.”
With a 5-1 record, the Leopards will take their five-game winning streak back home Saturday for back to back games at the Kirby Sports Center against the 1-5 Boston University Terriers.