Dec. 22, 2009
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y. -
Lafayette shot 70 percent from the floor in the second half and had four players score in double figures in a 74-69 win at St. Francis (N.Y.) on Tuesday night. The Leopards made 16-of-23 shots in the final 20 minutes, but had to seal the game with eight free throws in the final minute.
With 2:07 left in the first half, Lafayette (7-5) broke the final tie of the game when Levi Giese hit a 15-foot jumper and Lafayette led 21-19. The Leopards held a four-point margin at halftime and maintained their lead for the remainder of the game.
In the second half with 11 minutes to go, the action picked up considerably. Jared Mintz handed off to Jim Mower and Mower drilled a three as Lafayette led 47-37. A minute later, Mower hit another three to again push Lafayette's lead to 10 and prompt a St. Francis timeout. Ben Wheeler followed the timeout with a three at 9:05 and Lafayette led 55-42. Lafayette made 12-of-15 shots in the first 11 minutes of the half, including a 5-of-7 stint from beyond the arc.
A return to man-to-man by St. Francis led to Mintz slipping to the bucket and a 14-point lead. Mower hit another big three after a scramble and apparent St. Francis steal at the seven-minute mark. Lafayette led 60-43.
St. Francis cut the lead from 17 to seven on a three by sharpshooter Stefan Perunicic in the corner. He then hit a 24-footer over an outstretched Tony Johnson with 5:37 left. Mower answered with his own three 23 seconds later and put the lead back to 10. The sophomore finished with a team-high 16 points, despite missing much of the first half with two fouls.
The Terriers, however continued to tear off a 16-3 run. The game took an interesting turn when St. Francis stole the ball and Mower was whistled for an intentional foul on a breakaway with four minutes to go. The fiery Akeem Bennett made both free throws and St. Francis retained possession. On the ensuing possession, Bennett handed it right back to the Leopards, with a player control foul drawn by Jeff Kari
After the four-minute media timeout, Lafayette passed the ball in to its big man, and Mintz laid it in to lead 65-59. The Leopards' leading scorer had 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Neither team scored for the next two minutes until Herman Wrice made a layup to trim the Lafayette lead to 65-61 with 1:50 left.
Lafayette put the game away with its free throw shooting in the final minute. Michael Gruner made two free throws with 55 seconds left and hit two more with 9.8 seconds remaining to seal the victory. Mower added two and Kari had three free throws in the final minute.
Ryan Willen and Gruner had 13 and 11 points, respectively for Lafayette while Perunicic had a game-high 22 and Kayode Ayeni added 17 for the Terriers (3-7). The Leopards shot 57 percent from the floor for the game and made 11 three-pointers for 48 percent. The Leopards had 22 assists on 26 baskets with Gruner leading the way with a season-high seven assists.
Lafayette will take some time off for the holidays and will return to game action on Dec. 29 at Delaware in a 7 p.m. tip-off.
The Leopards improve to 5-1 against Northeast Conference (NEC) teams, beating Wagner, St. Francis (Pa.), Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island and St. Francis (N.Y.) with the only loss coming to Sacred Heart.
Former Lafayette basketball players Ted Detmer, Everest Schmidt, Drew Dawson and former Lafayette coaches Pete Schwethelm and Brian Gill (men's soccer) were in attendance at the game.