When we last left the Raiders, they had just come off a tough loss to the Fighting Irish. Since then, the men’s basketball team has gone 5-5. The Raiders opened up their Patriot League schedule by stifling Army in the opener, but then were dealt consecutive defeats by Lafayette and American.
Colgate began its December schedule with a trip to Ithaca to battle against instate rival, Cornell on Saturday, December 1st. The Raiders earned a 76-73 victory in large part due to strong performances on both sides of the ball. Junior guard Kyle Roemer led the offense with 18 points. Senior point guard Daniel Waddy poured in 16 points and had a key steal in the final minutes of the contest to secure the win.
The Raiders stayed in New York to battle the Binghamton Bearcats on Wednesday, December 5th. Fortunately, Colgate was on the winning end in this battle, 73-55. Once again, and junior Alex Woodhouse set a new career-high with five blocks.
Seeking to raise the ante, Colgate tried tackling two teams from powerhouse conferences. The first game was against perennial Big East power, Syracuse on Tuesday, December 18th. Colgate was never in the game and got blown out by an 87-59 score. Colgate’s lone bright spot was first-year guard Mike Venezia, who scored 10 points in his first collegiate game.
Colgate’s next opponent was out of the Big Ten, as the Raiders traveled to Happy Valley two days before Christmas to play Penn State. The result was another lopsided score, as the Raiders went down 66-48. Colgate shot just 35.1% from the field for the game.
The team’s results started to turn in their favor when they traveled to the University of New Hampshire prior to New Year’s Eve. A 17-4 second half run put them up 41-33 at the 12:34 mark, and Colgate held on for a 49-46 victory. Woodhouse had a career-best game with 17 points and nine boards.
Colgate finally returned home on Wednesday, January 2nd to battle another nonconference opponent, Maine. Both Roemer and Pounds got back in the groove, accumulating 17 and 14 points, respectively. Colgate jumped out to a 25-12 lead and never looked back in this one. At one point, Colgate responded by holding Maine without a field goal for 11 minutes. Maine never got closer than four points the rest of the way, allowing Colgate to notch a 70-62 win.
Six days later, Colgate hit the road yet again to battle the Harvard Crimson. Unfortunately, the Raiders had a tough time against a balanced Harvard offense that features four double-digit scorers. Roemer and senior Kendall Chones had strong efforts with 19 and 17 points, respectively, but the rest of the squad combined to score just 21 points. The result was a 77-57 victory in Harvard’s favor.
Colgate finally opened up its Patriot League schedule in their next game at home against Army. Colgate’s defense was dominant, holding the Black Knights to just 44 points and forcing 22 turnovers.
“The focus of our players in that game was very good, and we executed our game plan very well,” Head Coach Emmett Davis said regarding his team’s defensive play. “On defense, it’s all about focus and concentration.”
Venezia led the way with 10 points. The New Jersey native has been a key contributor off the bench since his first game against Syracuse, averaging 5.9 points per game.
“Mike is a talented player for us,” Coach Davis remarked. “He’s still learning the Division-I pace, but he’s really come along nicely and made significant contributions.”
Colgate grabbed an early 17-4 lead and never trailed, though Army made it close late in the game by cutting what was once a 14-point lead down to just four with 24 ticks left. However, sophomore Ben Jonson made a clutch lay-up with 18 seconds left that sealed a 50-44 victory.
Colgate’s next Patriot League matchup didn’t go so well. The opponent was the Lafayette Leopards, who were fresh off their victory against defending Patriot League champ Holy Cross. Colgate trailed 57-47 with 6:08 left in the game, but the Raiders made a 10-2 run down the stretch that closed the deficit to two. Then, with just one second left on the clock, a wide-open Chones sent the game into overtime by putting in a layup. In the extra session, Lafayette opened up an early four-point lead, but Waddy and senior Peter Minchella led the team on a 7-2 run to give Colgate the one-point lead with 22 seconds remaining on the clock. The Raiders looked like they might escape with a win, but Lafayette’s Bilal Abdullah tipped in teammate Michael Gruner’s missed lay-up with three seconds leftto give the Leopards a 69-68 lead. Colgate failed to get a game-winning shot off, and the lead stood. Roemer and Waddy were strong in defeat, netting 16 apiece.
After the disheartening loss, Colgate headed down to Washington D.C. to take on American. Colgate was down 42-28 at the half, but they battled back.
“In the first half against American, we didn’t execute our game plan well,” Davis said. “But in the second half, we executed it to perfection, and that allowed us to cut the deficit to 59-57 in the final minute.”
Like the Lafayette game, rebounding hurt the Raiders in this one. The Eagles missed a layup on their next possession, but Jordan Nichols pulled down the offensive board and put the ball in the hoop to give American a four-point lead. American’s Derrick Mercer hit four foul shots down the stretch to put the game away.
“I’ve been around this league for a number of years, and this is as wide open as it has ever been,” Davis said. “Lafayette was picked to finish last, and they’re in first. Holy Cross was picked to finish first, and they’re in last. Our chances this year are just as good as anybody else’s.”
The Raiders visit Bucknell on Saturday and host Holy Cross on Wednesday at 7 p.m.