After the most successful regular season in Colgate basketball history, the Raiders’ season came to a close last week, falling to the American Eagles in the semifinals of the Patriot League tournament. In the quarterfinals, the Raiders, who were the second seed, dispatched of the Navy Midshipmen by a score of 76-62.
The game against Navy started off as a close physical contest, with the opening whistles coming on offensive fouls against Colgate. Slowly the Raiders expanded their lead however, with senior forward Matt McMullen and senior center Ethan Jacobs hitting a couple three-pointers. Navy’s star forward Worth Smith answered with a thunderous dunk and a beautiful over the top jumper to keep the Mids within reach and only down 27-22 at halftime.
Senior forward and Patriot League defensive player of the year Luke Roh took matters into his own hands in the second half. With 17 minutes remaining, Roh made an and-one to push the Raider lead to double digits. After the ensuing Raider defensive stop, Roh made another drive to the hoop for an easy layup. Three minutes later, Roh converted the field-goal through the contact for yet another and-one.
The Raiders got significant offense from sophomore guard Alex Ramon throughout the second half. He made a three-pointer and a layup two possessions in a row down the stretch to keep the Raiders ahead in front of a rowdys home crowd. Navy junior guard Tilman
Dunbar kept the game close with a few aggressive takes, but some ice-cold free-throws by McMullen sealed this game for the Raiders.
The semifinal game against American University was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Eagles came out draining three-pointers, while Colgate could not buy an outside shot. The Eagles shot an absurd 62.5 percent from downtown in the first half compared to the Raiders’ 14.5 percent. Colgate entered halftime down 21-38 due in large part to senior guard John Schoof shooting well from behind the arc, and the Eagles’ defense forcing turnovers and converting them to fast-break buckets.
In the second half, Colgate upped the intensity and got the crowd back into the game. With just under three minutes left, the Raiders were able to close the gap to eight points, but the Eagles continued to make their free-throws and close the door on Colgate’s post-season run.
In reflecting on the season, senior co-captains Pat Moore and Roh both mentioned team camaraderie as a reason why this year’s squad was so successful.
“We were all very close on and off the court,” Moore said.
“We have guys who have played for three and four consecutive years together and have really learned how to play together and sacrifice for each other,” Roh said.
In looking ahead to next season, both Moore and Roh expect junior guard Austin Tillotson to step up as a leader for the Raiders. Tillotson was the only non-senior starter for the Raiders this season.
“Jordan Robertson has a chance to be really good but he was stuck behind a bunch of seniors this year. Hopefully Nathan Harries can get healthy, and [continue] what we started” Moore added when asked about next year’s team.
One of the aspects of this year’s team that stuck out was the grittiness. It seemed as though Colgate went down to the wire in nearly every game this season, and as the 12-6 conference record would suggest, most of the games went the Raiders’ way. The Raiders played tough the whole season and played with a chip on their shoulders throughout as they bought into the mentality set by head coach Matt Langel.
“Playing under Langel has been amazing. He was the only coach out of high school who really believed in me at the Division-1 basketball level. The things he has been able to do by changing the culture of the Colgate basketball program have been amazing,” Roh said.
Langel recently signed a five-year contract extension with the Colgate athletic department. Roh’s final statement reflects the closeness of the Colgate basketball team.
“All of the friends that I have made on the team will stick with me for a lifetime, and I am really grateful for that.”