January 17, 2015
EASTON, Pa. – The Lafayette men’s basketball team lost in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday afternoon inside Kirby Sports Center as American’s Pee Wee Gardner hit a floater in the lane with 0.3 seconds left on the clock to sink the Leopards, 78-76.
With three minutes left and American up seven, Gardner picked up a technical foul allowing four free throws from seniors Seth Hinrichs and Dan Trist. The pair made three-of-four to make it a four-point game at 70-66. American responded, though, as a layup from John Schoof upped the lead to seven at 75-68 with 1:12 to play.
However, Lafayette never went away as four free throws from sophomore Nick Lindner and Hinrichs in the final minute made it a two-point game with 21 seconds left. On the inbounds pass, Lindner anticipated the pass to Gardner and forced a turnover giving the Leopards a chance to tie it up. They did just that seven seconds later as Lindner’s layup falling away from the basket knotted it at 76 with 12 seconds left.
Unfortunately for Lafayette, Gardner wasn’t finished. Coming off a buzzer-beating win over Lehigh on Wednesday, he did it again, hitting on a floater in the lane off one foot with less than a second left to seal the game for the visitors, 78-76.
“I thought we played with a lot of heart to get back in that game,” head coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “It was not one of our better efforts defensively, but I’m certainly happy with our resiliency to get back in the game and tie it up at the end.”
The loss drops the Maroon and White to 3-3 in Patriot League play and 11-6 overall on the year, while American moves to 11-7 overall and 4-2 in conference action. The Leopards won the battle on the glass for just the fifth time this season, 33-23, but American was extremely efficient offensively, knocking down 30-of-50 from the field (60.0%).
Trist led a quartet of Leopards in double-figures with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor. Lindner added 17 points, one shy of a season-high, while freshman Matt Klinewski chipped in with a career-high 12 points and Hinrichs finished with 11. The Maroon and White dropped in 27-of-57 from the field (47.4%), but went just 4-of-18 from beyond the arc (22.2%), including going 0-for-7 in the first half from distance, the first time all year the Leopards have been held without a three in a half.
Lafayette came out hitting on all cylinders offensively as six points from Trist pushed the Leopards out to an 8-5 lead after the first five minutes. Klinewski’s elbow jumper and lay-in on back-to-back possessions midway through the half helped the Maroon and White keep that pace, leading 14-10.
A jumper from Schoof knotted the game at 20 and a triple from Gardner gave the Eagles their first lead of the game at 23-20 with six minutes remaining in the half. Another from Schoof, this time a triple at the three-minute mark gave American a 26-20 edge late.
Klinewski’s finish through a foul at the 2:10 mark ended a scoring drought of over six minutes for the Maroon and White and his 12th point of the first half cut the American edge to three at 29-26 with less than a minute left. However, Trist’s second foul with 0.7 seconds remaining put Gardner on the line for a pair and the Eagles went into the halftime intermission holding a 33-26 lead.
Hinrichs connected on a triple from the left wing early in the second half to finally get the Leopards going from beyond the arc and cut the lead to five at 37-32. However, American had the same successes on its end of the offensive floor, working its edge back out to seven at 44-37 at the first media timeout of the second stanza.
A triple in transition from Hinrichs, followed by a pair of Joey Ptasinski free throws at the 14:34 mark pulled Lafayette within four at 46-42. However, a long pass from Gardner to Jesse Reed, who finished at the rim, with 10:24 remaining ballooned the edge back out to nine at 57-48.
With less than eight minutes to play, Ptasinski drained his first triple of the game from the left wing and the defense forced a timeout with American clinging to a 62-57 advantage. The Leopards cut it to as close as three but an 8-2 response from the Eagles sent the lead back to nine at 70-61 with 4:30 to play and American went on to win it, 78-76.
Next up for Lafayette is a trip to Worcester, Mass. on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. meeting with Holy Cross.