The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Men’s basketball responds to Lehigh loss with runaway victory over Holy Cross

Freshman forward Josh Rivera led the way for the Leopards in both games. (Photo by Rick Smith for GoLeopards)

Lafayette men’s basketball had an up-and-down stretch, falling to Lehigh (14-9 overall, 9-3 Patriot League) on Saturday in heartbreaking fashion before beating Holy Cross (7-18 overall, 5-7 Patriot League) easily on Monday to stay in the hunt for the fourth seed of the fast-approaching Patriot League Tournament.

Lehigh swept this year’s Rivalry series after their 66-64 win in Easton. The Mountain Hawks led for the majority of the game, with Lafayette making a late push but ultimately falling short. 

Lafayette began the game flying, both figuratively and literally. Less than two minutes into the game, an alley-oop from sophomore captain CJ Fulton connected with freshman forward Josh Rivera, who forcefully dunked the ball in front of the home crowd. The fans naturally latched onto Rivera’s spirit, who, coming off of a Rookie of the Week nod, seemed to absorb the affection. 

“It felt amazing, the energy was great,” Rivera said. “I love when a big crowd shows up, especially when they’re cheering for you. I love the support.”

Rivera had the most points of any player on the court with 23. He also grabbed nine rebounds. 

The rest of the half, however, wasn’t as smooth for the Leopards. Lehigh went on a 7-0 run to jump ahead 28-13 with just over five minutes left in the half. 

However, sophomore center Justin Vander Baan sank a three-pointer and Fulton did the same to end a long slump for the team and bring the deficit to single digits. 

At halftime, Lafayette held its alumni event. Tracy Tripucka ’72, all-time leading scorer for Lafayette, was in attendance. Tripucka was the youngest inductee ever to enter the Hall of Fame at age 29 after scoring 1,973 points in just three varsity seasons. 

Lehigh widened the gap after the break with a 14-10 stretch. Lafayette had difficulty mustering consistent defensive stops. 

The home team appeared to find inspiration with mere minutes left on the clock. Going on a 9-2 run, Rivera and Vander Baan combined for all nine points to bring the team within a single point of their rival.  

A turnaround in free throw percentage was key in Lafayette’s comeback. Shooting just 42.86% in the first half, the Leopards improved to 81.25% in the second. 

“We played well in the second half, as we turned up the intensity,” Rivera said. “We moved the ball well and put pressure on defense. We didn’t start the game well, and our energy was lacking. So, we had to play catch up.”

The Leopards simply could not complete the comeback to come out victorious. Fulton attempted a half-court buzzer beater to win the game, but it bounced off the rim in heartbreaking fashion, solidifying the final score 66-64.

The Leopards rebounded from this loss well, cruising to an easy 72-58 victory in Worcester, Mass. against the Holy Cross Crusaders.

To start the game, Holy Cross marched out to a 9-0 lead, but Rivera responded with nine straight points of his own. The game remained close throughout the entire first half, with the Maroon and White up only six.

Out of the break, however, the Leopards showcased the same second-half spirit they displayed against the Mountain Hawks. Holy Cross just could not keep up, with Lafayette leading by as much as 15 before the Crusaders could find a positive stretch. By then, it was far too late and the Leopards were victorious.

Rivera continued his hot streak, putting up another 25-point performance while grabbing five rebounds during Monday’s victory. Vander Baan notched his first career double-double with a 14 point, 10 rebound game.

“I feel like I have been picking it up recently,” Rivera said. “Earlier in the season I had some ups and downs, but now I am finding consistency. I have been getting in the gym with Coach Jordan and listening to advice from coaches and his past players in order to improve my game. I’m just soaking all the knowledge in, constantly trying to find ways to improve.”

The Leopards’ next game is against Boston University at home on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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Eric Ponieman
Eric Ponieman, Assistant Sports Editor
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