The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Vander Baan, Rivera score 21 each in basketball’s loss to Bucknell

Junior guard Eric Sondberg looks for an opportunity during the Leopards’ last regular-season game. (Photo courtesy of GoLeopards)

The men’s basketball team (9-22 overall, 7-11 Patriot League) ended its regular season with a 75-65 loss to Bucknell last Saturday. 

Sophomore guard and captain CJ Fulton, who on Monday earned his first All-League selection with a spot on the Third Team, was not available for the game due to injury. 

With head coach Mike Jordan being put on paid leave last week as the college investigates his workplace conduct, associate head coach Mike McGarvey took charge against Bucknell. 

“In terms of the coaching situation, I think we know that it’s outside of our control and we are just trying to focus on what we can still do as a team,” Fulton said. “We still have a great staff who are going to prepare us as well as possible for the game on Thursday. It will be a tough challenge but we’re looking forward to it.”

Sophomore center Justin Vander Baan continued his exciting run of form, scoring 21 points and notching his second career double-double with 10 rebounds. His first double-double came against Holy Cross on Feb. 6, when he recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“We played hard and with intensity, but we lacked the attention to detail,” freshman forward Josh Rivera said of the Leopards’ performance. “This gave them open shots, and they were able to knock them down. I feel like we played well offensively, although we had some costly turnovers. Sometimes the offense would get stagnant, but we shot the ball really well from the field.”

Rivera showed great output on the night, matching Vander Baan’s 21 points. The New Brunswick, New Jersey native, who was most recently named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team, has averaged 10.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists over 29 games played. In addition, the forward has recorded an impressive 44.8% field goal percentage and 30.6% three-point percentage. His efficiency stands out, as he has scored the third-most points on the team (291) and second-most rebounds (149) after having played the fifth-most minutes on the team (700).

His highlights this season include a career-high 27 points at American on Jan. 18, his first double-double against regular season champions Colgate on Jan. 28 with 25 points and 10 rebounds, and his second double-double at West Point last week with 12 points and 13 rebounds. 

Through the first 10 games of the season, Rivera had started only three games and was averaging 5.4 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and .9 assists per game. His improvement has been evident, and he has transformed into a regular starter.

The standings have been finalized ahead of the Patriot League Tournament. Lafayette took the sixth-place spot, granting them a bye in the first round. They were matched up with rivals Lehigh (16-13, 11-7 Patriot League) for the quarterfinal game on Thursday evening in Bethlehem. Lehigh finished the season in third place, just behind Colgate and Navy. Lafayette lost this year’s games against Lehigh by an aggregate score of 113-127. 

The Maroon and White ended the regular season with 1,904 points scored, 61.4 points per game, a .407 field goal percentage, a .327 three-point percentage, 985 rebounds and 480 assists. Furthermore, the Leopards have conceded a total of 2,013 points in the 2022-2023 season. When averaged over the 31 games they’ve played, Lafayette’s 64.9 points scored per game is the best in the league heading into playoffs. However, the team is in last place for average points scored per game, with 61.4.

“We faced adversity this year, and we had our setbacks, but I am proud that we are still here fighting,” Rivera said. “I strongly believe we have a chance to go far.”

The semifinals schedule is to be determined as of Thursday morning.

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Eric Ponieman
Eric Ponieman, Assistant Sports Editor
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