Big win over Big Ten opponent

By Michael Kelley & Eric Goldwein

Photo by Jack Fedak IV/ The Lafayette

Rob Delaney '12 (above) had nine assists in the victory over Penn State on Wednesday.
Rob Delaney ’12 (above) had nine assists in the victory over Penn State on Wednesday.

Penn State was on a 25-game winning streak against Patriot League opponents, before the Lafayette Men’s Basketball Team traveled to Happy Valley on Wednesday night, defeating the Nittany Lions (6-4) 61-57.

The Leopards (4-5) picked up one of their biggest road wins in recent history, taking down a Penn State team that reached the 2011 NCAA Tournament as a 10 seed.

Guard Jim Mower ‘12 described the win as “the biggest non-league victory” in his career.

“Tonight’s win showed a couple things,” Co-captain Rob Delaney ‘12 said. “It shows that we’re just scratching the surface of our potential, and that we’re able to close out tough games on the road in a rowdy environment.”

A solid shooting performance and an improved defensive effort led the Leopards to the victory in front of the rowdy student section at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Mower, guard Nick Petkovich ‘12 and forward Seth Hinrichs ‘15 combined for 41 points. Delaney was held without a field goal, but dished out a season-high nine assists.

The Leopards, who allowed 82 points against Long Island, held Penn State to 33 percent shooting. The Nittany Lions scored six points less than their season average.

“Coach O’Hanlon always kept them looking at a new defense,” Mower said. “We never stayed in a certain defense for more than a couple plays and switched from man to zone frequently.”

The Leopards shut down the Big 10’s leading scorer, Tim Frazier ‘12, to three points.

Petkovich connected on four 3-pointers and collected eight rebounds. Despite suffering a chip fracture in his pinky finger, he has been on a hot streak lately. In the loss to Long Island on Monday, he scored a career-high 19 points.

“I attribute the hot streak to the quality of shots I’ve been getting,”

Petkovich said. “I’m at my best when I can step into my shot such as a trailer shot or a spot up.”

Although the injury was painful at first, Petkovich has been able to adjust. “At first, I was shooting with my palm due to all the tape around my fingers,” Petkovich said. “The trainers limited the amount of tape they put around my index and ring finger and I’ve been able to adjust.”

O’Hanlon has been very impressed with the improvement shown by Petkovich, who played a small role in his first three years. “He’s having a fantastic senior year,” O’Hanlon said in the radio broadcast. “Imagine what he could do with two good hands.”

The Leopards won despite a slow start. The Nittany Lions jumped to a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

But the Leopards came back, as Seth Hinrichs ‘15 drained 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.

Midway through the first half, the Leopards rattled off a 10-0 run and took the lead, courtesy of Petkovich’s back-to-back 3-pointers, and a pair of buckets from forward Dan Trist ‘15.

Guard Joey Ptasinski helped extend Lafayette’s 37-32 half-time lead, capping off a 7-0 run to put the Leopards ahead 51-41.

Penn State answered back with its own 6-0 run, cutting the Leopard lead to four with just over seven minutes to play.

Back and forth play continued but the Leopards were able to cling to their lead throughout.

The Leopards nearly squandered the lead in the closing seconds.

With under a minute to play, Petkovich called a timeout before realizing the Leopards had already used their five timeouts for the half. A technical foul was called and Frazier knocked down one of two free throws to bring the score within two.

Mower, however, put the game away by hitting both foul shots.

Penn State was the final leg of a three-game stretch against 2010 NCAA Tournament teams. Long Island, a 15-seed, defeated the Leopards on Monday. Princeton, a 13-seed that nearly upset Kentucky in the first round, defeated Lafayette 69-54.

The Leopards take on Sacred Heart on the road on Sunday before a 10-day stretch without games. On December 21, the Leopards face off against Vanderbilt, ranked in the top 25 earlier in the season.