By Greg Stevenson
In a season marked by dominance in the Patriot League, the Orange and Blue men’s basketball team took one more step towards clinching their second consecutive regular-season conference title with a commanding 90-78 victory over the Lafayette Leopards last Saturday night.
“Our offense was clicking against Lafayette, especially in the second half,” Mike Muscala ’13 said, who led the Bison in scoring with 24 points. “We can be proud of that but we could have played much better defensively.”
In the opening minutes, it was the Leopards who looked poised to seize control of the game. Lafayette scored on three of its first four possessions to take a 7-4 lead.
But the three-point advantage would be Lafayette’s largest of the game. The Bison scored the next 10 points and did not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the contest.
For a Bison squad known for its lockdown defense, a balanced offensive effort stole the spotlight against Lafayette. For the first time in over a decade, the Orange and Blue scored 90 points in a regulation game.
“It felt good to score 90 points against a good team like Lafayette,” Cameron Ayers ’14 said, who registered a hard-earned 11 points versus the Leopards. “I think everyone understands their roles now and we know what we want to accomplish as a team. Everyone is on the same page offensively and defensively and we have improved on both ends of the floor.”
The offensive outburst allowed a plethora of Bison to get involved. In addition to Muscala and Ayers, Bryan Cohen ’12, Bryson Johnson ’13 and Joe Willman ’13 each recorded double-digit points. Ryan Hill ’14 added five points, five rebounds and four assists of his own from the point guard position.
The win over Lafayette, combined with a loss by American that same day, leaves the Bison on the verge of securing the top seed and home-court advantage throughout the conference tournament coming up in two weeks.
The Bison lead by three games in the Patriot League standings and another victory in their match-up with Lehigh yesterday, after this paper went to press, would give the Orange and Blue the title. But taking down the Mountain Hawks is no easy task.
“I am looking forward to another challenge and to see how we have improved defensively,” Ayers said. “[Lehigh guard] C.J McCollum is a tough player and it’s going to take a team effort defensively, but I think we will get the job done. We have to win at home; that is very important to us.”
The Orange and Blue’s schedule after the Lehigh game does not play into their hands. Tomorrow, the Bison head to Worcester, Mass. to face a difficult opponent in Holy Cross, especially at home, just two days after playing Lehigh. The following Wednesday, the Bison travel to Washington, D.C. to play American, another one of the Patriot League’s top teams.
“It’s always fun to play at Holy Cross,” Muscala said. “Last year, it was a very close game, and I’m hoping this year we can pull out another win.”