Without Woodhouse, Men’s Basketball Team Struggles

The men’s basketball team was crushed by first-place American 69-44 in Washington D.C. last Saturday before losing 49-40 at Lehigh last night. The two losses put Colgate in fifth place in the Patriot League with a 5-7 record (9-16 overall).

Simply put, American has Colgate’s number. The Eagles are 16-2 all time against the Raiders, having won the last nine contests. Furthermore, American has never lost a game against Colgate at Bender Arena, its home court. Without senior center Alex Woodhouse, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, the Raiders certainly had the odds stacked against them last Saturday against a team that starts five seniors, and unfortunately came away with a loss.

Undoubtedly, the story of the game for the Raiders was their offensive ineptitude. After playing its best offensive game of the season against Lafayette on February 11, scoring 71 points on 59 percent shooting, the Raiders followed that up with one of their worst performances, making just 31 percent of their shots. In the first ten minutes of the game, Colgate made only three field goals, allowing American to jump out to a 20-6 lead midway through the first half. However, Colgate managed to find its way to the line, knocking down seven free throws to close within 13 points at halftime, 33-20.

After Derrick Mercer hit a free throw for American to start the second half, sophomore shooting guard Mike Venezia made a three-point play to pull Colgate within 11. That moment, however, was the lone highlight for the Raiders in the second half, as American proceeded to go on a 23-8 run to put the game away. During the tail end of that stretch, Colgate went scoreless for 7:29, a symbol of the offensive inconsistency that has plagued the Raiders this year.

“We need to focus on executing and for [Mike Venezia], [first-year forward Yaw Gyawu] and [junior forward Ben Jonson] to get the ball and be in spots on the floor where they can be successful,” Head Coach Emmett Davis said about preventing such scoreless streaks in the future. “We also need to focus on offensive rebound put backs and heighten our defensive intensity for easy buckets.”

The Eagles led by as many as 30 points late in the second half.

American forward Nick Hendra, whose father was the band manager in the cult classic This is Spinal Tap, had a career-best game with 16 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. The always intense and shifty 5’9″ point guard Derrick Mercer chipped in 15 points and five boards. Conference superstar guard Garrison Carr, a painful thorn in Colgate’s side last season, shot only 5-for-16 for 11 points, and forward Brian Gilmore had 11 as well.

For Colgate, Venezia was the only double digit scorer with 14 points. Jonson pitched in nine points and seven boards. No other Colgate player scored more than six points. In Woodhouse’s absence, first-year center Nick Pascale started and played 27 minutes. He went scoreless but grabbed five rebounds and did not turn the ball over. American out-rebounded Colgate 39-24.

The Lehigh game was more or less an ugly eyesore. Both teams played with great defensive intensity, but Colgate and Lehigh failed to convert good shot opportunities throughout the game. In the end, the difference lied in Lehigh’s ability to slash to the basket and create its own chances within the paint, while Colgate was not able to do that on this night.

Colgate took an early 5-4 lead after first-year point guard Anthony Hill hit a three-pointer, but that would be the Raiders last lead of the game. Led by junior guard Marquis Hall, who scored 16 points, dished five assists and had four steals, Lehigh was able to keep its distance from Colgate, although it was never able to pull away until very late. This was due to the continued hot scoring stretch from Venezia, who scored 13 points and has averaged 15.7 per game in his last three efforts. His three-pointer at the end of the first half pulled ‘Gate within three points, 26-23, at halftime.

The second half was by far ‘Gate’s worst offensive half of the season. The Raiders shot a meager 5-for-25 from the field, but thanks to its great defensive efforts, Colgate was able to hang around until late. Venezia hit another three, making the score 33-31 in Lehigh’s favor with 12:35 left, but it was all downhill from there. Over the next 12:05, Colgate scored just five points, three of which came off a bank shot three-pointer from Gyawu with the shot clock running down. Impressive as that shot was, the Raiders more often than not could not get open looks at the basket. When they did, the Raiders were simply victims of unlucky bounces, as a few of its attempts went in-and-out.

Lehigh led 39-36 after the Gyawu three-pointer with just over six minutes remaining and began to take advantage of Colgate’s offensive woes. The Mountain Hawks scored two-point buckets on each of their next three possessions while holding Colgate scoreless, giving themselves a 45-36 lead with 3:12 left in the game. The Raiders still were cold on the offensive end and did not score another bucket until seven seconds remaining.

Gyawu scored 10, and Jonson had eight points and six rebounds for Colgate. The Raiders shot just 27 percent for the game. For Lehigh, Carrington had nine points and 13 boards.

Colgate will now play an out-of-conference game against Longwood University in Virginia on Saturday before heading back home for Senior Day against Holy Cross on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Among the team’s goals now are finishing in the top-four of the conference and finding a way to have success on the court without Woodhouse.

“We’re going to have to scrap, do a great job on team defense and rebounding and get scoring from different people,” Coach Davis said. “Mike, Yaw, Ben and Anthony are doing a good job scoring, but we need guys on the bench to step up.”