Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
When Delaware and Lafayette take the court up in the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night (7 p.m., Kirby Sports Center), it will certainly be a contrast in styles.
The visiting Blue Hens like to pound the ball inside and work out from there, while the Leopards will try to shoot their way to victory from 3-point range. Both teams are perfectly comfortable with a slightly uptempo pace, though whether or not Delaware has one of their key contributors back could play a big role in which style wins out.
What both teams certainly could use is a win. Lafayette (1-6) has lost five straight games, including a 65-60 decision at Monmouth on Monday where they turned it over 27 times against a high-pressure Hawk defense. Delaware (2-4) has dropped their last three games, though against a trio of very talented squads in Kansas State, Pittsburgh and Temple.
Lafayette, like many Patriot League teams, relies on their shooting to be successful, and they do have a few guys capable of giving Delaware some serious issues on the perimeter. As a team, the Leopards shoot 37.8 percent from beyond the arc, good enough for 63rd-best in the country so far this year and generating nearly 40 percent of their points from 3-point range, putting them among the top 20 teams in the nation in that category.
“It is a daunting task when everybody on the floor is able to shoot,” Delaware coach Monté Ross told CoBL by phone on Tuesday night. “We have to guard the 3-point line. If we can guard the 3-point line, I think we’ll be okay and because they’re a team that really really relies so heavily on the 3-point shot. You have to be able to take that away to be successful.”
The Leopards’ biggest weapon is 6-foot-7 guard Seth Hinrichs, an All-Patriot Rookie Team selection last season is scoring at a 14.1 ppg clip, shooting 37.5 percent (15-of-40) from beyond the arc–which is down from his 46.4 (39-of-84) rate last year. His size and ability–he’s got the ball skills of a guard and sees the court well–make him a matchup problem for a Blue Hens squad with a fairly undersized backcourt.
“It’ll probably be [6-3] Kyle Anderson (who) will be matched up against him,” Ross said. “Kyle is strong enough, and of course whoever we put on him, he’s gonna be taller than our guy but we’ll probably start Kyle Anderson on him and trust Kyle to do a good job.”
Anderson and 6-2 Devon Saddler are likely to see the most time matched up against Hinrichs, as 5-8 Terrell Rogers would probably struggle guarding someone with nearly a foot on him. The only other option would be 6-5 forward Larry Savage, who had played just four minutes all season before tying a career high in points (six) in 17 minutes in Delaware’s last game, a loss to Temple.
In addition to Hinrichs, Saddler and company are going to have to keep an eye on sophomore sharpshooter Joey Ptasinski, who’s already 20-of-52 (38.5 percent) through seven games. Senior Tony Johnson is also one of the better all-around players in the Patriot League; the 6-foot guard is averaging 12.6 ppg, 5.1 apg and 3.6 rpg and has hit six of his seven 3-pointers so far. 6-9 Dan Trist, 6-9 Levi Giese and 6-6 Alan Flannigan are all very capable pick-and-pop bigs who have range beyond the 3-point arc, making Delaware’s defensive rotations critical to their potential success.
“It takes amazing discipline for 35 seconds because if you relax for just a moment you’ll find yourself flying out to a 3-point shooter and then it’s too late, so we wanna be there as they catch the ball and if we can do that I think we make our chances of trying to keep them from getting comfortable from shooting the basketball,” Ross said.
On offense, Delaware’s got to get the ball inside to Jamelle Hagins, a 6-9 forward who’s stronger than anybody that Lafayette can throw out there. Hagins is coming off one of the best performances of his career, a 29-point, 12-rebound effort against Temple that raised the All-CAA First-Team selection’s averages to 12.2 ppg and 11.8 rpg on the season.
The Blue Hens were without the services of two starters, sophomore Jarvis Threatt (abdomen) and senior Josh Brinkley (ankle), in that Temple game. Brinkley has missed the last two but has a chance to return against Lafayette.
“Those guys are day-to-day,” Ross said. “We just want to bring them along slowly to make sure we don’t jeopardize them.
“Josh will be a game-time decision but I don’t think we’ll have Jarvis.”
If Delaware is still without Brinkley, it’ll be redshirt junior Carl Baptiste getting his third-consecutive start in his first season as a Blue Hen, while redshirt freshman Marvin King-Davis looks to improve upon his 1.8 ppg and 2.2 rpg averages as he acclimates to getting significant minutes after playing a total of 18 in the teams’ first four games of the year.
Meanwhile, in the backcourt, it’s been the high-energy freshman Rogers who’s had to fill in for a very talented player in Threatt, who was averaging 10.4 points per game through Delaware’s first five games but has already gone for 30 twice in his freshman season alone. A Fort Mill, S.C. native, Rogers is averaging 5.3 points and 1.3 assists per game and has settled down a bit after an opening-game effort against La Salle after which had Ross joked that the youngest member of his rotation drove him a little bit crazy.
“He’s had some good spots, he’s had some bad spots, and that’s to be expected as a freshman,” Ross said now that he’s had some more time to analyze the youngest member of his rotation. “He’s gonna have some times that he’s very comfortable and there’s gonna be certain times with situations that he hasn’t seen before. So we have to put him in as many situations as possible that he’s comfortable in, and limit those situations that he’s not comfortable in.”