Silver lining in Lafayette's clouds, while the PL loses more ground to the Ivies

Before we get into analyzing Lafayette's tough road loss at Marist last night, we want to provide a little lesson on the difference between papers who do a good job covering hoops, and those who are mediocre at best.

In our book, the mark of good coverage is staffing the game. That means sending one of your reporters, or arranging a correspondent to file from a game on the road. Papers that rely on the reports they get from the Sports Information department just don't give fans a full and accurate idea of what happened at the game. Those reports are generally just a narrative box score, with a little play-by-play mixed in.

Sometime later in the season we might dig into that a little further. Maybe we will even give report cards to the media that cover the Patriot League. It's too soon to do that.

For now, though, here are two stories from the Lafayette-Marist game that illustrate the point.

The first comes from the Middletown N.Y. Times Herald-Record. You can pretty much tell where this is headed by the lede:
Sophomore Will Whittington scored a game-high 27 points, including 21 in the second half, to lead Marist to an 83-79 non-conference win over Lafayette last night before 2,678 fans at the McCann Center in Poughkeepsie.
Now, check out the story Roderick Boone of the Poughkeepsie Journal wrote. Boone starts out:
He scored only six points in the first half and wasn't getting many good looks.

The frustration was evident on his face, especially when he was heading into the locker room at halftime, seconds after he thought he was fouled on his team's final offensive possession.

In the second half, though, he looked more like the person who's the leading scorer on the Marist College men's basketball team. And first-year Marist coach Matt Brady couldn't have been happier.

Will Whittington pumped in 21 of his game-high point total in the second half and hit a pair of crucial free throws with 3.4 seconds left, leading the Red Foxes past Lafayette, 83-79, in a non-conference matchup before 2,678 at the McCann Center Friday night.
Both pretty much cover the same facts, but Boone's story actually tells you what happened.

Here's another piece of his story that you won't find in most SID phoned-in reports:
After falling behind by as many as four points during the beginning of the second half, Marist (4-4) regained control after a huge momentum swing. Whittington was fouled in the backcourt by Lafayette's Bilal Abdullah, who thought he had a clean steal.

The Leopards' bench jumped up almost in unison to dispute the call, and official Wally Rutecki, Jr. called a technical foul on Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon with 9:46 left.

Whittington knocked down the two technical free throws and both foul shots. He also hit a three-pointer 40 seconds later, swelling the Red Foxes' advantage from five to 12 all by himself.
It is worth noting that papers in the Lehigh Valley would have gotten a little more on the technical from the report filed by Lafayette's sports info folks. We don't have any idea what either paper reported. The Morning Call's Web site had nothing on the game and the Easton Express-Times' feed to PennLive appears to have been down this morning.

Meanwhile, a couple things of interest from the box score: Marist got to the foul line 28 times, Lafayette 17. But a look at the play-by-play shows eight of Marist's free throw attempts came in the final 2:20, when the Leopards, down by 8, were likely going for steals or even fouling on purpose to try to take advantage of the Red Foxes' relatively poor shooting (1-for-28) from the stripe to get some two-for-one trades to cut that gap. In other words, it looks like it was pretty evenly officiated.

Lafayette's bench made a big contribution, especially Andre Capusan, who had 15 rebounds and 13 points. The Leopards reserves scored 34 points. That is some serious bench production.

Hard to say if the Leopards' bench will keep that pace in League play, since at this point, it is hard to say who will be starting and who will be coming off the pine. If you check the 'Pards season stats, you will notice nine different players have gotten at least two starts as O'Hanlon continues to search for the right combination. Heading into last night, Lafayette used five different starting lineups in its first six games.

Interestingly, 6-8 senior center Sean Knitter, the Leopards leading scorer and the only Lafayette player averaging in double figures (11.1 ppg), has not started a single game.

Some other notes from the Marist box: After having nobody in double figures rebounding all season, Capusan and 6-6 sophomore forward Jamaal Douglas bother did it last night. Douglas had 11 boards and 12 points. Capusan and Douglas also provided the first double-doubles of the season for the 'Pards.

Bottom line, we continue to believe that Lafayette will be a factor in Patriot League play. Despite their 1-6 record, they seem to be getting a little better each time out. Add in the Fran O'Hanlon factor, and one of the toughest homecourts in the league, and we smell trouble for the teams that expect to contend for the regular season title.

Not suggesting that the young Leopards will be one of those contenders. But we will not be surprised if they are the league's spoilers both in the regular season and in tournament play. Mark our words, somebody amongst the four teams expected to battle for the title -- American, Bucknell, Holy Cross and Lehigh-- is going to overlook the 'Pards and get smacked hard in Kirby. And more than likely, it is going to cost them, at the very minimum, a home court in the first two rounds of the tournament.

Elsewhere, the Patriot League lost more ground in the season series with the Ivies withColgate's 85-82 OT loss to Harvard last night in Hamilton (box score).

The Ivies now lead the series 8-3, with 12 left to play. Since two of those involve Army, they almost seem like the Ivies have two games in hand, to borrow a hockey phrase (yes, I know it doesn't mean exactly the same thing as used here, save the e-mails). Two of the other 10 involve Princeton or Penn.

In other words, the Patriots have very little, if any, margin for error if they are to win the season series.

I thought scholarships were going to solve that.

If you are really bored, there are some blurry, out of focus pictures from the Lafayette-Marist game on the Marist Web site.

Or better yet (shameless plug warning), why not do some Christmas shopping over at You'll make people you love very happy and help support Hoop Time at the same time.

How's that for a double-double, eh?

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