For a Colgate team without a true post presence, guard play will either make or break the season. On Sunday afternoon in Easton, PA, Colgate’s guards helped break a three-game skid in the Patriot League, beating the Lafayette Leopards, 62-61.
Setting up a thrilling finish, first-year Alex Woodhouse threw down a dunk over Matt Betley and was fouled with 36 seconds to play. Although he missed the potential go-ahead free throw, Colgate buckled down on defense and forced Marcus Harley to miss a lay-up in traffic with 4.9 seconds remaining. Senior forward Andrew Zidar grabbed the rebound and threw an outlet pass to the streaking Alvin Reed, who was fouled hard by Betley as time expired. After the officials checked the monitor and reset the game clock to one second, Reed made his first free throw to give Colgate a 62-61 lead.
After a Colgate timeout, Reed tried to intentionally miss the second free throw. “I saw it going wide right and I said, ‘Please just hit the rim,'” Reed said. It did, and Jamaal Douglas was unable to get off a shot attempt before the buzzer sounded.
Reed’s heady miss was one of many smart plays made by Raider guards against Lafayette. Colgate has been crippled in recent games by slow starts, to which turnovers and poor rebounding contributed heavily. None of these problems plagued Colgate on this day, as the Raiders jumped out to a quick 18-11 lead, on 8-12 shooting, in the first 8:22 of the first half. A rare start by senior co-captain Keith Williams seemed to bring energy into the lineup; Zidar and first-year Kyle Roemer hit the glass, holding Lafayette without an offensive rebound in that span.Reed and backcourt-mate sophomore Jon Simon continued their controlled play throughout the half. Although poor shot selection led to a Colgate scoring drought and a Lafayette run near the end of the half, Reed’s defense led to a five-second call on Harley with 10 seconds to go. He then fed Roemer for a basket that gave Colgate a 32-23 lead as time expired.
The beginning of the second stanza looked as one-sided as the first. This time, though, the Kirby Center crowd had a reason to warm up their voices as the Leopards scored nine unanswered points in 2:22 to knot the score at 32. Despite scoring only one field goal over the next 4:19, Lafayette managed to hang around and eventually took a 47-41 lead with 10:41 to play. Douglas began to wear down Colgate’s big men on the inside, finishing with a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds, but the Raiders battled back with a 12-4 run to set up an exciting last six minutes.
“I was proud of our ability to deal with the way game was going,” Colgate coach Emmett Davis said. “Lafayette came out in the second half with great energy, but we got it back and were able to go toe-to-toe with them.”
Reed was Colgate’s high scorer with 11, as he and Simon combined for 21 points, eight assists and only five turnovers. Recent Colgate losses were marred by high turnover counts for the Raiders; Lafayette, though, managed only nine points off Colgate’s miscues. After being dominated on the boards in its last three games, Colgate out-rebounded the Leopards, 39-38, led by Zidar’s nine.The first game of the road swing marked another step in the team’s improvement, but not in the win column. Colgate came out ready to play against a strong Lehigh team it had beaten two weeks earlier. The Raiders held the Mountain Hawks to no field goals for 6:19 of the first half, trimming an eight-point deficit to one. Colgate finally took a 28-25 lead on consecutive three-pointers by Simon and Reed. The teams went to the locker rooms tied at 30, largely due to Colgate’s ability to neutralize the more athletic Lehigh players’ advantage on the glass.The teams traded baskets for the better part of the second half, but Colgate misfired on several transition opportunities in the first five minutes – a mistake that would come back to haunt the Raiders. Sophomore Simon Knight’s jumper with 7:51 remaining put Colgate up by three, 50-47, but Lehigh guards Jose Olivero and Joe Knight began to heat up and Colgate’s offense quickly cooled down.
The duo combined for eight points during Lehigh’s decisive 15-3 run. That spurt turned a 50-47 Colgate lead into a stunning 62-53 loss. In the end, Colgate hurt itself; though out-rebounded by four, the Raiders played a great first 32 minutes of basketball. Over the last seven-plus, though, Colgate’s shot selection suffered. Rather than forced the ball into the post – Colgate enjoyed a 22-18 advantage in points in the paint in the first half – the Raiders forced up several errant jumpers in the last seven minutes. Forgetting the earlier success the team had enjoyed on the block, all nine Colgate field goal attempts in the last seven minutes were from at least 10 feet out. Only one, a three-pointer by Zidar with 2:11 to play that cut the deficit to 57-53, was on target as Colgate limped towards its fifth league defeat.
Simon led Colgate with 11 points; Woodhouse’s team high of 9 rebounds is his new career high.
Now 4-5 in the Patriot League and 9-13 overall, the team looks to continue its winning ways tonight against Navy and Sunday afternoon against American.