Second Basketball Scouting Report: Lafayette
One of Navy's two Patriot League wins this season came against the Lafayette Leopards. The Midshipmen will try to sweep the season series and show that a loss at the hands of a quality team (American) can translate into a stronger showing against a less imposing foe.
This game is important for Navy in one crucial respect: The Midshipmen must play Boston University after this contest. Coach Ed DeChellis's team must then go to Army and Bucknell. This is clearly Navy's best win opportunity in the coming weeks. No team wants to be saddled with a long losing skid, so the Midshipmen need to gather themselves against Lafayette.
The Leopards are 0-9 at the midpoint of the Patriot League's 18-game conference season. Lafayette is getting closer to breaking through, however, and this is a point Navy has to keep firmly in mind. In Lafayette's first five Patriot League games, the team lost by an average of 12.4 points per game. In its last four league games, Lafayette has lost by an average of 4 points per game. This is anything but a layup for the Midshipmen.
A reminder: Lafayette's leading scorer early in the season, guard Seth Hinrichs, was knocked out of the lineup due to a knee injury. He had been averaging 20.2 points per game before the injury. He missed a month and a half of the season but just returned to the rotation this past Monday, Jan. 27, in a loss to Colgate. Teammate Alan Flannigan was shelved for a month, but he has returned to action as well. Guard Zach Rufer and forward Michael Hoffman have been pressed into service as the team's primary reserves, but neither player has been able to make substantial contributions to the cause. Navy's problems in terms of depth are (and have been) considerable. Improbably but genuinely, Lafayette's problems have been worse… but the Leopards are getting players back, which can't be said for the Midshipmen.
Forward – Alan Flannigan – Junior, 6-6, 221; 2013-14: 4.8 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per game
Flannigan played 17 minutes this past Monday against Colgate and did not score a point. Very simply, he and Hinrichs are complete mysteries at this point. It's impossible to gauge just how effective they'll be in these initial games following their respective returns to the Lafayette lineup. Hinrichs, it should be noted, came off the bench against Colgate. He scored only 5 points, dragging his scoring average down to 18.7 points per game. Hinrichs averages 5.4 rebounds per game, but again, he might not be his normal (pre-injury) self for a few more games. Navy can only try to play its best defense and let the chips fall where they may.
Forward – Ben Freeland – Junior, 6-9, 246; 2013-14: 1.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg
Freeland is a placeholder starter for forward Dan Trist, a 6-9 banger who averages 12.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Trist is 246 pounds, so he carries some bulk in the paint. Navy will have to give Trist its full attention.
Guard – Bryce Scott – Sophomore, 6-3, 188; 2013-14: 13.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg
Scott has had to be "the man" in the absence of Hinrichs. Now that his teammate is back on the floor, it will be interesting to see how Scott adjusts… and how Lafayette's halfcourt offense does or doesn't change in terms of its patterns and tendencies.
Guard – Nick Lindner – Freshman, 5-10, 161; 2013-14: 10.8 ppg, 2 rpg, 4.2 apg
Lindner is small, but he is by far the best passer on this team, dropping roughly four dimes per game while no other Lafayette player averages anything more than 2.5 assists per contest. Lindner's averages have held steady since the last time Lafayette played Navy.
Guard – Joey Ptasinski – Junior, 6-2, 174; 2013-14: 11.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.8 apg
Ptasinski's scoring average has increased by roughly one full point since the last meeting between these teams. Will he continue to look for (and get, and make) shots with Hinrichs back in the lineup? This is the second time Navy has played Lafayette in 2014, but the Leopards are in many ways a different team from the one the Midshipmen faced a few weeks ago.
Keys to the Game
1) Send a message to Hinrichs and Flannigan on defense. If Navy makes Hinrichs and Flannigan aware of the extent to which they'll have to work in order to score, the Midshipmen can plant seeds of doubt in a team that has been struggling for months. This is Navy's foremost priority against the Leopards.
2) Transition defense. Flowing from the need to make Lafayette work for everything it gets, the Midshipmen can't allow easy baskets. Missed shots are okay; live-ball turnovers leading to fast breaks are not. At any rate, Navy has to get back in transition in this game if it wants to get a leg up on Lafayette.
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