Mercyhurst men's basketball team starts season well

The Mercyhurst College men’s basketball team is off to one of its best starts in years. With a 13-3 overall record and 4-0 in the conference, the Lakers have been nearly unstoppable.

Of the three losses, the biggest was by only three points to Mansfield.

In the other two games, the Lakers were down by two points to East Stroudsburg in overtime, and again to Mansfield by one.

This is already an improvement from last season’s 18-10 mark and worst loss of 22 to Indiana.

The Lakers boast an average victory margin of 10.5 points. This is up from last season’s 5.9 points per game. Defensively, the Lakers have allowed only 66 points a game.

Several players are giving significant contributions this season, but none of them have been as consistent as senior guard Heiden Ratner.

He is averaging 23 points, three rebounds and two assists per game. These numbers, particularly in scoring, are up significantly from his junior season, in which he led the Lakers in scoring with 15 points per game.

His biggest game this year came in an overtime victory over Clarion, in which he led the Lakers with 34 points. This was all done in just his second full season with the team after transferring from James Madison.

Senior guard Shelton Jackson is also contributing. He is averaging 12 points, five rebounds and three assists per game. Jackson also leads the team with 28 steals this season.

At 6 feet 3 inches, he is currently second on the team in rebounds per game and an excellent complement to Ratner in the back court.

He also has improved his game from last season, in which he averaged eight points per game, placing him fourth on the team.

The big surprise for the Lakers has been the play of sophomore Luis Leao.

The second-year forward is almost averaging a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds a game after being red-shirted last year.

The forward is shooting an excellent percentage, connecting on 52 percent of his shots, and 77 percent of his free throws, placing him second and third on the team in those respective categories.

The only question remaining for the Lakers is how will they finish out the season?

With two games remaining against IUP, a team that dismantled the Lakers twice last season, can the Lakers continue their winning ways?

Last season, they lost seven of their last 15 games, and back in 2008-09, the Lakers started 11-0 only to lose eight of the final 11 games, finishing 16-10 overall.

Head coach Gary Manchel feels the team could avoid a meltdown this year.

“You can’t worry about injuries and sometimes you get the bounce of the ball your way. Two years ago, we lost three star players, and anytime we lose three stars things will go down hill but I know its cliche but it is just game by game at this point,” Manchel said.

The next test begins tonight at Gannon’s Hammermill Center. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.