The 2007-08 men’s basketball season has arguably been the most wacky of Head Coach Emmett Davis’ coaching career. Here’s a quick recap. The team started out by winning its first four games, a feat that Colgate had not done since going 4-0 in 1979. Then, Colgate had an up-an-down non conference stretch before heading into Patriot League play with an 8-6 record. After taking a 50-44 game against Army, the Raiders lost a excruciatingly tough game in overtime against Lafayette and another brutal game against American. This left Colgate at 1-2 in the Patriot League heading into its game against Lehigh. Well, to no one’s surprise, the wacky men’s basketball season continued.
Last Wednesday, Colgate traveled to Bethlehem to take on the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. The Raiders jumped to a 24-15 lead late in the first half thanks to the efforts of junior Alex Woodhouse (six points) and senior Kendall Chones (18 points, nine rebounds), but Lehigh closed the gap to five before the end of the half. In the second frame, Lehigh woke up from its offensive slumber and decided to unveil its two-headed attack of Prentice Small and Zahir Carrington. These two Mountain Hawks combined for 21 of Lehigh’s 40 points in the half, and they helped lead the team’s ferocious offensive tear. Many of these points came from the free throw line, as the team made 18-of-its-24 shots from the charity stripe. Finding itself down 58-49 with just over one minute left, Colgate went on a quick 11-5 run. First-year Mike Venezia knocked down two threes during that span. With Lehigh up by two points, Woodhouse fouled Matt Szalachowski in hopes that he would miss at least one free throw to give Colgate a chance to win or tie the game. He missed the latter shot and Venezia snatched the rebound with a chance to tie the game. His buzzer-beating shot came up short, and Colgate lost its third consecutive game of the season. Junior co-captain Kyle Roemer finished with a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds), and senior guard Daniel Waddy chipped in with nine points. Venezia matched Waddy’s offensive efforts with nine more points.
Last Saturday night’s match-up at Bucknell was a critical Patriot League affair for the Raiders. A Colgate win would have vaulted the Raiders up to fifth place and broken Bucknell’s 37-game Patriot League home winning streak at the Sojka Pavilion. While Colgate lost this battle 65-61, any Patriot League coach, player or fan that read the waiver wires the next morning came away with two positive and vital pieces of information about the Raiders. First, Colgate fell behind 23-0 to start the game, only to fight back within two points in the second half. Secondly, reserve guard Willie Morse showed off his offensive firepower by scoring 19 points and accruing six rebounds in 27 minutes of action.
Morse broke the 23-0 run with 11:10 minutes left in the half by knocking down two free throws. He would score eight more points in the half in leading Colgate on a 25-16 run to end the half. The ferocious Colgate comeback would continue into the second half, as the Raiders went on a 19-4 run that spanned over nine minutes. Venezia scored eight of the team’s nineteen points during that run. However, two Bucknell starters that sport the two of the longest last names in the Patriot League put an end to Colgate’s fun. Darren Mastropaolo and Justin Castleberry led Bucknell on a 13-1 run that wiped away Colgate’s offensive splurge. Castleberry scored 22 points and grabbed six caroms on this night, while Mastropaolo scored eight points. In the closing minutes of this game, Bucknell forgot how to score, and Colgate whittled the lead down to three points with seconds left. Just like last game, Waddy fouled an opposing player (this time, Bucknell’s John Griffin) in hopes that he would miss and give Colgate a chance to tie or win. However, Griffin dashed all those hopes by knocking in his first free throw, sealing the Bucknell victory. The loss dropped Colgate into a last-place Patriot League tie with Holy Cross at 1-4. However, Head Coach Emmett Davis believes that this game meant a whole lot to this resilent squad.
“I thought we really came together as a team in that game,” Davis said.
Doomed to be in last place all by themselves with a loss against Holy Cross last night, the Colgae Raiders gutted out an ugly win against the offensively-deprived Crusaders, 58-46 at Cotterell Court. Holy Cross jumped out to an early 10-3 lead, but the Raiders quickly evened things up and went to the lockerroom with a 23-21 lead after a Woodhouse dunk as time ran off the clock.
In the second half, it was the Roemer and Woodhouse show. On offense, Roemer took care of business by scoring 10 of Colgate’s first 13 points in the second half. He scored 15 points in the game and showed his fiery leadership on the court every time Colgate committed a foul or turnover, encouraging his team to keep on.
“Roemer really played great,” Coach Davis said. “He was a leader tonight.”
On the other end, Woodhouse led a swarming defensive effort against Holy Cross’ Tim Clifford, who averaged 17 points per game coming into last night.
“[Woodhouse] used his quickness,” Davis said. “I thought he did a good job using his feet. We crowded him a little better in the second half.”
Colgate’s awesome ability in knocking down outside jumpers as the shot clock wound down buoyed this squad in the latter part of the second half, and Venezia and Morse’s shots in particular stand out. Furthermore, junior Trevaron Vinson knocked down three field goals in the second half to pad Colgate’s lead. A Kendall Chones lay-up with 1:38 left sealed the Colgate win, and the Raiders grabbed their first win against Holy Cross since the 2003-04 season. When asked how it felt to win this game, Davis was thrilled to respond.
“It feels awesome,” Coach Davis said. “We’ve had four tough losses in a row, and we needed to get a win.”
The Raiders will travel to Navy on Saturday afternoon before returning home to play Bucknell on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.