Jan. 9, 2013
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - Patriot League men's basketball teams have hit the midway point of the 2012-13 season, which means League play the rest of the way beginning on Saturday.
The eight squads combined for a 62-62 record in non-League action, with just one game remaining as Colgate hosts NJIT on Feb. 6. The League has combined for a 56-41 record against Division I teams outside of the "Big-Six" conferences, and a 48-29 record against regional foes from the Atlantic 10, America East, CAA, Ivy League, MAAC, NEC and MEAC. Patriot League teams have done plenty of their damage at home with a 34-12 mark on their own courts.
Bucknell had some of the top highlights of the non-League slate, finishing with a 13-3 record that gives the Bison the most non-League wins in Patriot League history and the second-best 16-game record in school history. Bucknell has won at all sites, holding a 5-0 record at home, 6-3 on the road and 2-0 at neutral courts. The Bison are tied for the national lead in both road and road/neutral wins, and have strong wins over Purdue, La Salle, Loyola University Maryland, George Mason and New Mexico State as well as a near-miss at No. 12 Missouri on Saturday.
Bucknell's Mike Muscala and Lehigh's C.J. McCollum were as good as advertised during non-League action, though McCollum is now expected to be out 8-10 weeks after having surgery on his foot on Tuesday. Muscala has been outstanding all-around with 19.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 blocks per game coupled with good shooting from the field (55%) and foul line (80%). McCollum has led the nation in scoring for the majority of the season, and stands at No. 2 in the country with 23.9 points per game before his injury.
For more on what the teams did during the non-League portion of the schedule, read the synopsis for each squad below. To watch preseason interviews and other videos from the season, go to the Patriot League men's basketball YouTube playlist here
The Eagles took on a set of challenging games that included trips to Minnesota, St. Joseph's, Georgetown and Kansas. The Eagles opened 2-1 with wins over Quinnipiac and Mount St. Mary's, and also own victories against St. Francis (Pa.), UMBC and Maryland Eastern Shore. American is limiting teams to just 63.7 points per game, but is last in the Patriot League with 56.1 points per contest. The return of forward Stephen Lumpkins has been a big boost, as the senior stands seventh in the Patriot League with 14.4 points per game and second with 9.1 rebounds per contest.
Army (7-8): The Black Knights are second in the Patriot League with 74.2 points per game, and scored 90 points or more in wins over Marist, Maine, Rosemont and Houston Baptist. Army holds a 4-1 record at home, but does enter Patriot League play with two straight losses after falling to Columbia on Saturday and Dartmouth on Tuesday. Senior Ella Ellis leads the Black Knights and is fourth in the Patriot League with 17.3 points per game, while Kyle Wilson is the top scorer among Patriot League freshmen and 11th overall with 12.1 points per contest.
Bucknell (13-3): As mentioned above, Bucknell put up a non-League performance that parallels anything in Patriot League history. In addition to becoming the first team to 13 non-League wins, the three defeats were the fewest in non-League play since Holy Cross had the same amount in 2002-03. The Bison opened the year with a five-game winning streak that included a 70-65 victory at Purdue to begin the season on Nov. 9, and followed it with a six-game winning streak highlighted by a 74-66 triumph over La Salle on Dec. 15. Bucknell nearly pulled off a big upset on Saturday, but fell just short in a 66-64 loss at No. 12 Missouri. The Bison come in the top 30 in the latest RPI standings. Bucknell is among the top teams in the Patriot League in nearly every statistic, leading in five different categories while also ranking in the NCAA top 50 in six different areas. Muscala is second in the Patriot League in scoring and first in rebounding and blocked shots, and his success across the board has the senior as the No. 1 player in the nation in efficiency rating on ESPN.com. It's not all Muscala, however, as Cameron Ayers, Bryson Johnson and Joe Willman also average more than 10 points per game for the Bison.
Colgate (6-10): The Raiders had a six-game losing streak, but head to Patriot League play with momentum after wins in three of their last four games. Colgate won at home against Binghamton and New Hampshire just before the New Year and at Dartmouth on Saturday to get going in the right direction. The Raiders stand second in the Patriot League with 126 made three-pointers, and are among the top 50 teams in Division I in both three-pointers and three-point field-goal percentage. Colgate has relied heavily on Murphy Burnatowski, who is third in the Patriot League with 17.5 points per game in his first season with the Raiders.
Holy Cross (8-7): An up-and-down non-League campaign ended on a high note Tuesday as Holy Cross broke a three-game losing skid with a 78-69 victory over Columbia. The Crusaders improved to 4-1 at the Hart Center this year. The non-League campaign was highlighted by a three-game winning streak in December that included a 73-63 triumph at San Francisco. Junior Dave Dudzinski and sophomore Justin Burrell have emerged as top talents for Holy Cross, with the former standing in the top five in the Patriot League in points (16.9 ppg) and rebounds (6.9 rpg) and the latter building on last season's Rookie of the Year campaign by putting up 14.1 points per contest. While the Crusaders have struggled to score at times, they are among the top 10 teams in the nation by making 77.2% of their foul shots and are holding opponents to just 61.7 points per game.
Lafayette (7-10): It was largely a tale of home and away for the Leopards, until Tuesday when Lafayette posted an 85-83 win at Penn for its first-ever victory at The Palestra. Lafayette is 6-2 at home this season and just 1-8 on the road, though the slate away from Kirby Sports Center has included visits to Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota and Stanford. Winning close games is nothing new, however, as five of Lafayette's six Division I wins have been by three points or less or in overtime. The Leopards are third in the Patriot League with 68.9 points per game, and as balanced as anyone in the League with Seth Hinrichs (14.4), Dan Trist (14.0), Tony Johnson (11.5) and Joey Ptasinski (10.0) each among the top 21 scorers.
Lehigh (10-4): While Lehigh will be without McCollum for at least the majority of Patriot League play, the senior made his mark in non-League action with 25.7 points per game before Saturday's 59-55 loss at VCU. The Mountain Hawks only played one other tight game in their first 14 contests, an 80-79 loss at home against Bryant on Dec. 29. All of Lehigh's wins came by seven points or more, with nine by double digits including an 89-60 victory over Robert Morris on Nov. 12 and a 90-75 triumph at North Texas on Dec. 20. After starting 1-2 with losses to Baylor and Pittsburgh, Lehigh reeled off eight straight wins before the loss to Bryant. The cupboard will not be bare without McCollum, as fellow seniors Gabe Knutson (15.7 ppg) and Holden Greiner (11.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and junior Mackey McKnight (11.3 ppg, 5.1 apg) are enjoying fine seasons. Lehigh has been at or near the top of the national leaderboard all season in free throw and three-point percentage, and is leading the Patriot League with 79.5 points per game.
Navy (6-10): After a three-win season a year ago, the Mids built momentum early by going 6-6 heading into their exam break. Navy posted an impressive 69-59 win over Bryant, a team that is now ranked in the College Insider.com Mid-Major top 25, on Dec. 10 and owns a 4-3 mark at Alumni Hall. The Mids head into Patriot League play on a four-game losing streak, but aim to remain in the mix by relying on one of the top defenses in the League. Navy leads the Patriot League in scoring defense at 58.9 points per game, and is holding opponents to 29.3% shooting from beyond the arc. A team without any seniors is being led by a freshman, as Tilman Dunbar has won four Patriot League Anaconda Rookie of the Week awards while averaging 10.8 points and a League-high 5.3 assists per game.