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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Patriot League Championship Preview: Can the Leopards pull off the upset?

Senior captain Leo O’Boyle, who scored his 1,000th career point against American on Sunday, will be key for the Leopards against Colgate. (Photo courtesy of GoLeopards)

A spot in March Madness will be clinched on Wednesday night, as the No. 6 seed Lafayette Leopards (10-22, 7-11 Patriot League) travel to Hamilton, New York to take on the No. 1 seed Colgate Raiders (25-8, 17-1 Patriot League) on March 8 at 7:30 p.m. 

Following a stunning 84-76 win over American University in front of a raucous crowd at the Kirby Sports Center, the Leopards enter their first Patriot League final since 2015, when they won a hard-fought victory over American University.  

With a win in Hamilton on Wednesday, the 2022-23 Leopards would set an NCAA record as the losingest team in history to make the March Madness tournament. With a 10-22 record and 7-11 record in the Patriot League, Lafayette has peaked at the right time.

With just seven available players in the semifinal game, the Leopards showed strength and grit to win a double-overtime thriller over American. They did this in large part due to senior captain forward Leo O’Boyle’s clutch overtime three to keep the game going before the Leopards went on a 15-0 run and put the game away in the second overtime. 

Meanwhile, the Colgate Raiders sealed their place in the final with a much more straightforward 91-74 win over third-seed Army. Colgate was led by senior guard Oliver Lynch-Daniels, who scored 21 points as the Raiders reached their sixth consecutive Patriot League final. Colgate also won the Patriot League Championship in 2022, defeating Navy in the final.

Questions linger for the Leopards with whether they can maintain their energy after two taxing battles against Lehigh and American. However, with incredible team chemistry and motivation, the Leopards will fight until the very end with a spot in the Big Dance on the line. 

Much of the game will depend on O’Boyle and his leadership. As the only senior on the team, O’Boyle has helped prepare the many first-years on the team for the intensity and high stakes of the Patriot League tournament. O’Boyle has excelled with a 42 percent success rate in three-point shots, while one of his three-pointers against American sealed his 1,000th collegiate basketball point.

The team will also need standout supplemental performances from junior forward Kyle Jenkins, freshman forward Josh Rivera and sophomore center Justin Vander Baan if they want to stay in the game with the two-time consecutive champion Raiders.

High-quality offense will also be important for the Leopards. The Leopards have excelled on defense throughout the season, but they’ve struggled on offense at times. Before their semifinal game, Lafayette scored an average of 61.7 points per game, a comparatively low amount. Yet, the offense came to life in past games, with the Leopards shooting over 50 percent in three-point attempts against American, while improving on their free-throw percentage, which was the second worst in the entire NCAA during the regular season. 

While many can point to the Colgate Raiders as the heavy favorites based on their 17-1 record in conference play, records fly out the window during conference tournaments. Colgate’s only loss came at the hands of American in early February, Lafayette’s latest victim. 

At the end of the day, it will be a difficult task for the Leopards on Wednesday night. The Leopards have faced two tough tests in their two games of the tournament, and their shooters have gotten hot at the right time. Ultimately, the Leopards are battle-tested and prepared for another close game. 

Leopard fans can watch the game on CBS Sports Network on March 8th at 7:30pm, or pack the Cotterell Court stands in Hamilton, New York.

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About the Contributor
Andreas Pelekis
Andreas Pelekis, Assistant News Editor
Tennis addict.

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