Michael Kelley (@hmmm_mikekelley)
Those preseason concerns about youth and inexperience have been halted – at least for tonight.
Showing the poise and composure of a veteran team, the Lafayette men’s basketball team (1-1) defeated Long Island University-Brooklyn 98-94 in overtime in the first of their four games of the 2012 Barclays Center Classic Tournament.
Several underclassmen shined, but none brighter than Australian sophomore forward Dan Trist, who had a career-high 30 points, including four in the overtime period, to lead Lafayette. Seth Hinrichs scored 20 points, Tony Johnson added 16, and Joey Ptasinski contributed 12 before fouling out in overtime.
After yet another jumper by Trist in the second half, a fan shouted from the bleachers, “that is just marvelous basketball.” Perhaps coach Fran O’Hanlon has already found “the man” he was looking for to lead his young and largely untested team this season.
But Trist had little to say about his performance and mainly discussed his teammates.
“I was really proud of the guys,” Trist said. “We all came out ready to go, we ran our sets really well, and we buckled down on defense.”
Down 87-86 at the 39-second mark, Trist converted a 3-point play off an assist from Hinrichs to score the go-ahead basket. But on an offensive rebound with 18 seconds remaining, LIU tied the game. A potential game-winning shot by Johnson was blocked at the buzzer.
Trist made a jump shot and then a hook shot in the first minute of overtime to put Lafayette ahead for good. After a block by Levi Giese on LIU’s final offensive possession, Hinrichs sealed the victory with two free throws. Giese had three blocks, tying a career high.
“I was just hoping and praying that they were going to go in,” Hinrichs said. “I was trying to focus on swishing it. I kept telling myself, swish, swish, swish.”
11 players, including three freshmen, contributed points for Lafayette, as O’Hanlon went deep into his bench to provide depth for tonight’s fast-paced and physical game. The Leopards’ bench outscored LIU’s 35-12.
The defending Northeast Conference champions were led by forward Jamal Olasewere, who had a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Jason Brickman, fifth in the NCAA last season with 7.3 assists per game, added 19 points and eight assists.
Lafayette controlled the paint and points off turnovers, outscoring the Blackbirds 38-30 and 17-10, respectively.
Trailing 54-51 with 17:23 to play in the second half, Lafayette went on an 8-0 run to retake the lead. But LIU responded with a 7-0 run to take it right back. The Blackbirds boasted a six point lead with 9:44 left until Hinrichs went on an 8-0 run that included two three-pointers and a layup to put Lafayette back in front.
The Leopards dominated the first half and at one point led by 14. But two runs of 11-2 and 7-0 brought LIU back.
“I did not expect to run away from that game,” O’Hanlon said. “That team is too good and too talented. I would have loved if we had turned 14 into 30, but that does not happen.”
In the final second of the first half, a blocking foul was called on LIU, sending point guard Bryce Scott to the line. Coach Jack Perri and his assistants then erupted with anger, causing officials to call a technical foul. Hinrichs hit both free throws on the technical and Scott made his two to give Lafayette a 47-46 lead entering halftime.
Next up for Lafayette is Friday night’s contest against Kentucky, the defending national champions. While the Leopards’ youth may have been remedied tonight, it will surely be exposed against the ever-frightening Wildcats (1-0), who boast the nation’s most explosive freshman, center Nerlens Noel.