Patriot League Men's Basketball Weekend Preview - 12.2.11

Lehigh's C.J. McCollum

Dec. 2, 2011

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Center Valley, Pa. - Two of the hottest teams in the country play in the Patriot League, and each will go in search of a seventh consecutive win this weekend.

American and Lehigh have each won six games in a row after claiming a pair during the week. The Eagles kicked off a four-game homestand with a 77-66 win over Howard on Tuesday and 69-58 triumph against UMBC Thursday, while the Mountain Hawks won their home opener 86-75 over Quinnipiac Monday and scored a 78-60 victory at Fordham Thursday.

Lehigh will try to add to its winning streak on Saturday when it visits Cornell. The Mountain Hawks have not won seven games in a row since the 2005-06 season.

American has to wait until Sunday evening to try to boost its streak. The Eagles play host to Saint Joseph's in a game that will be shown on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. American last won seven games or more consecutively in its Patriot League title season of 2008-09, when it entered the NCAA Tournament on a 13-game winning streak.

The squads highlight a weekend schedule that also includes Bucknell at La Salle, Navy at Elon, Army at Binghamton and Holy Cross hosting New Hampshire on Saturday.

Bucknell had won five in a row before falling at George Mason 61-57 on Wednesday evening. The Bison had chances to tie or take the lead down the stretch, but could not come up with the big shot. Each of the three teams started its winning streak with an 0-2 record.

Home success also continued for Patriot League schools during the week. In addition to American's two wins and Lehigh's home-opening triumph, Colgate defeated Eastern Michigan 74-70 on Thursday. Patriot League teams are up to 18-5 at home this season.

In other action during the week, Lafayette dropped a 69-54 final at Princeton, Army lost 54-53 at home against NJIT and Navy fell 59-46 at Maryland Eastern Shore Wednesday. On Tuesday, Colgate fell at Fordham 79-69 while Holy Cross lost at Providence 82-77.

Colgate and Lafayette are both off for the weekend and will return to action next week.

Patriot League Notebook

Eagles, Mountain Hawks Continue to Fly High
Victories in a pair of games during the week put the winning streaks for both American and Lehigh at six games entering the weekend action. The Eagles defeated Howard on Tuesday and UMBC Thursday at home, and are 4-0 at Bender Arena this season. The Mountain Hawks won their home opener against Quinnipiac on Monday and defeated Fordham on the road Thursday. Each of Lehigh's six consecutive wins have come by double digits. Each team has won six in a row following an 0-2 start. Bucknell won five straight after its 0-2 start, but had its run come to an end with a 61-57 loss at George Mason on Wednesday.

Home Cooking
Lehigh was the final Patriot League team to open its home schedule on Monday, and with an 86-75 win over Quinnipiac the Mountain Hawks became the seventh League school to win its home opener. Every Patriot League team has already won at least one home game, and with two more home victories on Thursday League squads are up to 18-5 on their own courts. Bucknell has won all four of its home games this season and has a 17-game home win streak overall, while American is also 4-0 at home.

Hinkle's Star Continues to Shine at American
Charles Hinkle averaged only 4.5 points in his first season at American in 2010-11, but the senior has positioned himself as the breakout star of the 2011-12 campaign thus far. Hinkle scored 20 points or more in his first six games and has totaled at least 17 in all eight games this season. He leads the Patriot League and is among the top players nationally in scoring at 22.4 points per game, and is one of the top foul shooters in the nation at 76-of-89 for the season. He added to the free throw mark by going 18-of-20 in two games this week. Hinkle has scored 179 points in American's eight games this season, already exceeding last year's total of 103 that came in 23 games.

Doing it All
A handful of players are all over the Patriot League leaderboard in numerous categories. Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, the Preseason Player of the Year, stands second in scoring (19.1), first in steals (2.5), fourth in assists (3.3) and second in free-throw percentage (86.4). Bucknell's Mike Muscala, who won last year's Player of the Year award, is leading the Patriot League in rebounding (9.3), stands second in blocks (2.0) and eighth in scoring (13.4). Navy's J.J. Avila does a little of everything, placing in the top 10 in the League in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and field goal percentage.

Superlative Seniors
Patriot League seniors are enjoying a strong start to the season. Charles Hinkle (22.4) leads all players in scoring and is followed by Lafayette's Jim Mower (18.7) in third and Ryan Willen (16.3) fourth, with Holy Cross' Devin Brown (14.6) seventh. Brown, Hinkle and Mower have already notched 30-point games this year, with Mower named both Patriot League and ECAC Player of the Week for his 37-point outing against Fairleigh Dickinson on Nov. 22. Mower, Willen, Brown, Colgate's Yaw Gyawu and Navy's Jordan Sugars have surpassed 1,000 career points, with Sugars becoming just the 26th Patriot Leaguer in the 1,000-point, 500-rebound club.

Bucknell, Lehigh Sweep Tournament Subregionals
Bucknell and Lehigh have each swept through a weekend subregional of an early-season tournament. Bucknell won all three of its games in the TicketCity Legends Classic subregional in Lewisburg over the weekend, beating Princeton (62-56) and Morehead State (54-50) in addition to West Alabama (87-50). The previous weekend, Lehigh won by double digits over William & Mary, Eastern Kentucky and host Liberty to sweep its pod of the 2K Sports Classic in Lynchburg.

Common Opponents
The Patriot League schedule features a number of games against the same teams and conferences, particularly those located in the northeast and mid-atlantic. The Patriot League is off to a good start against its most common competitior, the Northeast Conference, with a 10-3 record so far. The leagues will match up 26 times in 2011-12. Patriot League teams have combined for multiple wins against St. Francis (Pa.), Fairleigh Dickinson and Quinnipiac from the NEC.

Team Notebooks

American The Eagles have won the first two of their four-game homestand and six in a row overall after beating Howard on Tuesday and UMBC Thursday this week...The Eagles topped UMBC 69-58 as they closed the first half on a 13-4 run to take a five-point advantage at the break and never let the lead slip any lower after intermission...Charles Hinkle led American with 18 points, and has scored 17 or more in every game this season...Troy Brewer added 15, Daniel Munoz scored 10 and Tony Wroblicky had seven points, a career-high 13 rebounds and four blocks...American dispatched of Howard 77-66 on Tuesday... The Eagles opened the game on a 12-1 run and led throughout, going ahead by as many as 15 points in the second half...Riley Grafft led all scorers with a career-high 21 points while making 7-of-8 shots and 6-of-6 at the line, while Hinkle had 17 points and seven rebounds...It was Hinkle's first game under 20 points this season...He continues to lead the Patriot League in scoring at 22.4 per game...American has matched last season's longest win streak, and improved to 4-0 at Bender Arena...The Eagles will have a tough test to keep it going when they host St. Joseph's on Sunday at 8 p.m....The game will be shown on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic...A victory would give American its first seven-game win streak since winning 13 in a row entering the NCAA Tournament in 2008-09.

Army Army rallied from 16 points down against NJIT and scored the final nine points of the game on Wednesday, but it was not enough as Josh Herbeck missed a chance to win at the buzzer and the Black Knights fell 54-53...Ella Ellis led the Black Knights with 11 points while Jordan Springer scored 10...Army made just 2-of-24 three-pointers to fall despite holding NJIT to just 35.5% from the field...Army completed its homestand with a 1-2 record...The Black Knights head back on the road on Saturday to face Binghamton...Army won at home against the Bearcats last season.

Bucknell The Bison saw their five-game winning streak come to an end on Wednesday against a tough George Mason team who is ranked No. 15 in the Mid-Major poll and now holds an 18-game home winning streak...The Bison fell 61-57 in a game that was back and forth throughout...Bucknell held the lead with just under five minutes to play...George Mason closed the game on a 10-4 run, with the Bison missing multiple chances to tie or take the lead in the final two minutes...Cameron Ayers led Bucknell with a career-high 23 points, while Mike Muscala scored 11 and pulled down 15 rebounds...Ayers has averaged just under 20 points per game in Bucknell's last three contests...The Bison play at La Salle on Saturday...Bucknell won on its trip to the Explorers last season.

Colgate Colgate has won both of its home games this year after holding off Eastern Michigan 74-70 on Thursday...The Raiders put together an 18-6 run to build a 57-44 lead with just under eight minutes to go, and led by at least three points the rest of the way..Mike Venezia led a balanced scoring effort with 19 points, while Pat Moore scored 14 and John Brandenburg finished with 11...Venezia went 10-of-11 at the foul line, and has hit 22-of-23 free throws this season...Colgate fell at Fordham 79-69 on Tuesday...The Raiders led for nearly the entire first 33 minutes of the game, but Fordham took control with a late 16-3 run and went on to the win at home..Six Raiders scored between 10 and 13 points, with Nick Pascale notching 12 and also pulling down 10 rebounds...Moore and Sterline Melville shared team honors with 13 points apiece...The Raiders are off until Wednesday when they travel to Albany...Colgate lost the matchup by two points at home last season.

Holy Cross After rallying from a big deficit, Holy Cross could not hold on down the stretch and fell at Providence 82-77 on Tuesday... The Crusaders had a furious rally to take the lead, coming back from a 64-48 deficit with a 21-5 run to tie the score and then going ahead by a basket twice in the final minutes...However, Providence responded with the final seven points of the game to score the victory, including a go-ahead three-point play with 25.6 seconds remaining...R.J. Evans and Dave Dudzinski led the way with 21 points apiece, with Dudzinski setting a career-high for the second game in a row and also notching a career-high 11 rebounds...The Crusaders are back in action on Saturday when they host New Hampshire...Holy Cross fell by three points on the road to the Wildcats last season.

Lafayette The Leopards held a one-point halftime lead but were outscored 43-27 after intermission in a 69-54 loss at Princeton on Wednesday...Ryan Willen led the Leopards with 16 points while making 7-of-12 shots...Joey Ptasinski and Jim Mower each scored nine...Princeton made 17-of-25 shots after halftime to pull away from Lafayette...Mower stands third and Willen fourth in the Patriot League in scoring...Lafayette is now off until Monday when it hosts Long Island...The Leopards fell in the matchup on the road last season.

Lehigh Lehigh won two more games this week and is off to its best start in more than 30 years at 6-2...The Mountain Hawks have their best mark through eight games since 1980-81, and have won six consecutive games all by double digits...Lehigh added to the streak this week by winning at Fordham 78-60 on Thursday after an 86-75 win over Quinnipiac in its home opener on Monday... Lehigh beat an Atlantic 10 opponent for the first time, and knocked off the Rams for the first time since Fordham competed in the Patriot League...Lehigh closed the game on a 27-13 run to break open a close contest and go on to the 78-60 win...Lehigh's junior trio all had big nights... Gabe Knutson scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds, Holden Greiner had 18 points and nine boards and C.J. McCollum scored 15 while totaling seven rebounds and six assists...Lehigh made 23-of-25 shots at the line, with McCollum, Knutson and Mackey McKnight combining to go 19-for-19...Lehigh's win over Quinnipiac made the Patriot League 7-1 in home openers this season, and also lifted the League to 10-3 record against teams from the Northeast Conference...Four Mountain Hawks scored in double figures, led by McCollum with 23 points...Knutson scored 19 on 8-of-13 shooting, while Grenier (11) and Mackey McKnight (10) rounded out the double figure scorers...Lehigh took the lead for good with a 9-1 spurt late in the first half, and pulled away with a 10-2 surge midway through the second half...The Mountain Hawks are averaging just under 80 points per game for the year, and have scored at least 72 in every contest...Lehigh will try to extend its winning streak to seven when it visits Cornell on Saturday...Lehigh defeated the Big Red at home last season...The Mountain Hawks last won seven consecutive games in the 2005-06 season.

Navy Maryland Eastern Shore broke open a tight game with an 8-0 run to finish the contest and beat Navy 59-46 on Wednesday...J.J. Avila finished with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Mids...Avila stands in the top 10 in the Patriot League in scoring, rebounding, assists, field goal percentage and steals...The Mids have another road trip on Saturday when they take on Elon...Navy lost the contest at home last season.