The men’s basketball team split its first home stretch of Patriot League games, losing to American 79-49 last Saturday before beting Lehigh 58-45 last night.
Coming into last Saturday’s game, American forward Brian Gilmore was averaging 11.6 points per contest, good enough to be the second-best scorer on the Eagles behind deadly sharpshooter Garrison Carr. However, the 6’8″ senior forward was the offensive star in American’s 79-49 win against Colgate, scoring 28 points on 11-of -16 shooting.
“That was as good a performance as I’ve seen in a long time in our gym,” Head Coach Emmett Davis said. “Gilmore got open looks early in game created by penetration and screening. Every time he got open look, he knocked it down. He is a tough matchup because he can shoot the three and drive it, and he’s a pretty tough kid. If you told me that we’d hold Carr to 9 points and lose by 30, I’d say you’re crazy.”
Gilmore scored 11 points on a game-opening 15-0 run, nine of which came off three-pointers. His shots would either come off a drive-and-dish or when American’s ball rotation was too quick for a ‘Gate defender to get his hand in Gilmore’s face, allowing for a shot opportunity. When Gilmore was not scoring, the rest of the team was able to pass and cut to the basket for quick backdoor layups and other easy scoring opportunities in the paint off fast cuts and sharp passes. On the other end of the court, Colgate was having trouble even getting a shot off, as American was denying any decent Raider offensive opportunity with its solid man-to-man defense. Colgate missed five jumpers and committed three turnovers off offensive fouls before scoring its first basket 6:40 in the game when senior guard Willie Morse hit a layup.
Gilmore eclipsed his season point average by scoring his 14th point off a three-pointer that gave American a 21-7 lead with 11:11 left in the first half. Sophomore guard Mike Venezia responded with a jumper to close the gap to 12, but that would be as close as Colgate would get for the remainder of the game. The Raiders continued to have trouble getting an open look and had to fight for every inch. Colgate scored only four points in the last five minutes of the half and made only 9-of-23 field goals. American took a 40-20 halftime lead into the locker room, but Gilmore almost managed to outscore Colgate in that time frame, notching 18 points.
In the second half, Colgate was able to find its offensive footing by getting more shots off and drawing more fouls, but American kept up its intensity throughout the entire game. Colgate and American played an evenly matched second half for the first seven minutes, but a 19-8 American run gave the Eagles their largest lead of the game (73-41) with just over four minutes left.
For American, point guard Derrick Mercer scored 14 points and had four assists. Guard Stephen Lumpkins got 10 off the bench, and Carr chipped in nine. Gyawu led Colgate with nine points as well. The Colgate starters had a poor offensive showing on this day and were actually outscored by Gilmore, 28-25. Furthermore, American out-rebounded Colgate 34-18.
“I thought they dominated us inside,” Davis said. “They start 5 seniors and came in really focused and really took it to us.”
Not to be deterred, Colgate bounced back on Wednesday and dominated Lehigh on the defensive end of the court for the win, holding the Mountain Hawks to 1-of-17 three-point shooting. It also helped that Mike Venezia and senior forward Alex Woodhouse had their best games of the season. Venezia chipped in a career-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Woodhouse notched a season-high 15 rebounds to go along with seven points. Senior guard Willie Morse also did well, scoring 10.
“The expectations for us is for [Woodhouse] to do that every night,” Davis said. “I thought this was one of his better games. He did a great job on [Lehigh forward Zahir] Carrington inside. Coming off Saturday’s game where we did poor job defensively, we challenged these guys and they answered the bell. They did great job tonight.”
Davis also had kind words to say about Venezia’s play.
“Mike was great. That’s what we need him to do on night in and night out basis; get open looks and knock them down. I thought [senior guard] Willie Morse had a great night too, and he played one of his best games of the year. I put him on the bench to start the game, and he handled it really well.”
Colgate started out with a new starting lineup, inserting rookie forward Yaw Gyawu into the lineup for Morse. However, things didn’t look so bright in the beginning of the game, as Lehigh started out on a 10-2 run. Colgate charged back with nine straight points and gradually began to pull away as the half wore on, taking a 25-18 lead into the locker room. Both teams struggled to find offensive consistency, and Lehigh in particular was especially anemic, missing all 10 of its first-half three pointers.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were largely a carbon copy of the first 20 minutes of the game, with neither team finding its offensive rhythm. However, a crazy play led to a Colgate momentum boost that helped seal the win. With just over four minutes remaining and Colgate leading 44-38 as the shot clock wound down, Raider senior forward Ben Jonson found himself in trouble on the sideline. Double-teamed and falling out of bounds, Jonson threw a looping pass to Woodhouse down low. Immediately double-teamed, Woodhouse threw a pass to the opposite corner to Morse, who drilled a deep corner three as the shot clock expired. Lehigh came up empty-handed on the next possession, and Venezia then drilled a two-pointer. A Jonson three-pointer the next Colgate time down the court sealed the win for ‘Gate.
The Raiders will now go on a two-game road trip. Colgate plays Bucknell on Saturday and Holy Cross on Wednesday.