Men’s basketball falls in back-to-back Patriot League games

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Junior forward Neal Quinn (pictured) was the top scorer with 16 points men’s basketball’s loss against Army. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Simmons)

Colleen McNamara, Staff Writer

The men’s basketball team (6-14 overall, 3-6 Patriot League) continued their losing streak against the top two teams in the Patriot League this past week. The Leopards fell to the Black Knights 60-56 Saturday in West Point. The following Monday, the Leopards could not compete with the Colgate Raiders, falling by eleven in the Allan P. Kirby Sports Center 72-61.

Having won against Army in their last meeting on Jan. 16 68-54, the Leopards were familiar with their style of play. Army’s competitive Patriot League record (7-3) showcased how the Leopards could compete if they could score efficiently and keep the Knights from establishing a defensive rhythm. 

“We knew they were gonna come out competitive and disciplined; they always have a plan and execute it well,” senior guard Jay Vaughan said.

Junior forward Neal Quinn scored 16 points and sophomore guard Jon Brantley scored 15 points to lead the team. Sophomore forward Kyle Jenkins was close behind, with nine points and six rebounds. Freshman guard CJ Fulton failed to score, but snatched eight rebounds and three steals. 

The last lead the leopards held was thanks to an electric three-pointer from Senior Tyrone Perry making it 56-53. Perry contributed with six points and three assists. 

“It was more of a defensive battle but Perry’s three was huge. It made the guys on our bench and everyone in the stands energized,” Vaughan said. 

Unfortunately, that brief jolt of momentum was countered by the Black Knights’ 7-0 run in the final minutes of regulation. The score was close the entire game, with the Leopards losing both halves by two points each, but they could not weed out the crucial mistakes that ultimately doomed them.

“Coach [Fran] O’Hanlan said we have to be able to get the loose balls, grab top rebounds, that’s been the difference in our games recently,” freshman forward Chris Rubayo said.

Lafayette’s offensive game was not the team’s strength in Saturday’s contest, entering the back-half of their season their attention  is centered on ball movement.

“We are focusing on fast ball movement, not settling and doing a better job of making the extra pass is our offensive goal this week,” Rubayo said. 

Monday’s match against Colgate (5-2 Patriot League) was more lopsided. 

The Raiders were dominant from the first whistle, creating a 10-point-gap early. Colgate did not let up, and with 15 minutes left in regulation, they were up 50-33. Thanks to three-pointers from junior forward Leo O’Boyle and Fulton the Leopards had hope with 13 minutes remaining, but the 11-point-deficit was too steep for Lafayette to recover. 

Quinn was dominant once again, leading the leopards with 15 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, inspiring Rubayo to elevate his game too.

“We play the same position but go about it very differently; he uses his height to his advantage and I use my speed,” Rubayo said. “I try to learn as much from him as I can every day.”

The Leopards remained optimistic despite the sore.

“We made our run and stayed positive. We obviously didn’t pull out the win in the end, but it proved we can compete with anyone in the league,” Rubayo said.

Though Lafayette nearly matched Colgate’s offense in the second half (39-36 points), it was not enough to come back from a 33-25 deficit in the first half.

The energy on the court was not reflected by the score. 

“It felt a lot closer Monday night, each possession mattered a lot, taking advantage of that, making the little things happen will be the difference in this league,” Rubayo said.

Vaughan echoed Rubayo’s description of the league competition. 

“Every game in the Patriot League is so competitive and you’re going to get a battle. Either way, we have to first focus on our own team and execute what we need to,” Vaughan said. “We have to play our best down the stretch since every team makes the playoffs. It’s crunch time to play our best basketball to finish out the season strong.”

Vaughan shared his own personal goals as he enters the back end of his final season as senior captain.

“As captain, I want to make sure my teammates and friends are being led in the right direction both on and off the court” Vaughan said. “I want to push everyone to be their best on the court to develop into the players they have the skills to become. Off the court there are great opportunities at this small liberal arts school, I hope these guys get to interact with the many different people here.” 

Catch the Leopards tomorrow in the Allan P. Kirby Sports Center for their Pediatric Cancer Awareness game against Bucknell with a tip-off at 2 p.m.