By Greg Stevenson
Despite conceding an 11-point lead with four minutes to go, the men’s basketball team took advantage of a dominating performance by Bryson Johnson ’13 and fought back hard in overtime, outlasting a tough Lafayette Leopards squad, 74-69, on the road in Easton, Pa. on Wednesday night. The victory gives the Orange and Blue their 10th conference win of the season and leaves them one win or one American loss away from clinching the Patriot League regular season title.
Johnson had a career night, scoring 30 points, including five three-pointers and a perfect 11-11 from the free-throw line. Off the bench, Enoch Andoh ’12 added two key baskets down the stretch in overtime to pull away from Lafayette.
“It’s always a great feeling to be able to give your team a nice spark off the bench,” Andoh said. “Everyone, starters and reserves, kept their composure tonight. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to help us win with a couple of clutch buckets.”
Early on, Lafayette seemed unfazed by a Bison team that had a two-game lead in the Patriot League and had blown out most of its conference opponents. The Leopards scored the first five points of the game and held the advantage until the eight-minute mark in the half. The Bison and Leopards traded baskets for the rest of the first period, until a three-pointer by Johnson gave the Orange and Blue a five-point lead at halftime.
“Lafayette is a very well-coached team that when they execute their offense they are a very hard team to guard,” Bryan Cohen ’12 said. “The keys to winning this game [were] to really disrupt their offensive flow and motion offense by having great ball pressure and preventing the ball from entering the post. We had great practices this week at guarding their offensive sets and we [felt] very confident going into [the game].”
The Orange and Blue opened the second half with the first seven points, extending the advantage to 12. But every time the Bison jumped out to a big lead, the Leopards had an answer. Down by 11 late in the second half, Lafayette charged back with an 11-0 run to tie the game with just over a minute to go. Two missed free throws by Mike Muscala ’13 and an off-the-mark three-pointer at the buzzer by Johnson pushed a game that had seemed out of reach into overtime.
In overtime, Lafayette picked up right where it left off with a three-pointer in the first 10 seconds of the extra period. But three free throws from Johnson and the two baskets in the paint by Andoh sparked the Bison to a hard-earned victory over a tough conference foe.
“Going into Easton, we all knew that we had a big game ahead of us,” Andoh said. “But we were able to focus defensively, contain their key players and squeak out another road win.”
With the win, the Orange and Blue move within one game of securing home court throughout the Patriot League tournament. Despite the second-ranked American Eagles also winning Wednesday night, the Bison only need to win one of their final three games or the Eagles to lose just one to earn the regular season conference crown.
Looking to secure the regular season league championship, the Orange and Blue head to Colgate on Saturday for their final road game of the year. The Bison are looking for the same success that helped them beat the Raiders by 27 the first time they faced each other this season.
“It definitely feels good to be close to wrapping up the number one spot going into the conference tournament,” Cohen said. “However, it is only a stepping stone for our bigger goal of winning the Patriot League and going to the NCAA tournament. We are playing well as a team and we feel very confident going into the final stretch of the season.”