Men's basketball ends strong season in PSAC playoffs

The 2011-12 men’s basketball team finished the year with one of the most successful seasons in program history. Finishing the year at 18-10 overall, this is the seventh consecutive winning season for the Lakers.

After propelling to a 3-0 start, the team suffered through a rough 3-4 patch, but quickly bounced back.

In the opening round of Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) play, the Lakers produced a convincing 6-0 run after dropping a contest to Clarion. This campaign included a 71-47 victory over nationally ranked Indiana (Pa.) on Jan. 21.

This game was one of the many high points of the season for junior forward Luis Leao.

“This win made me feel like we knew we were a great team,” said Leao. “Having a win like this early in the year showed us we could be special if we played up to our potential every game.”

The win over IUP was the first win over a nationally ranked team since the 2006-07 season.

Conversely, the Lakers also swept a two-game series with Gannon for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

With the regular season capped at Lock Haven with a 73-66 win, the Lakers received a home berth in the PSAC playoffs. They went on to beat Slippery Rock 77-69 on Feb. 28.

This was the first PSAC Final Four appearance since the Lakers joined the PSAC in the 2008-09 season. Additionally, the Rock knocked the Lakers out of the playoffs in 2011.

The Lakers continued with a contest at East Stroudsburg, ending their season with a 66-58 loss.

Despite the loss, the 2011-12 Lakers had a very successful season.

Sophomore Matt Lee led the team with 15.7 points per game. Leao contributed 15.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game despite missing many games due to injury.

Lee was named to second-team All-PSAC and Leao was named PSAC men’s basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year.

The Lakers led the PSAC in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and turnover margin.

The Lakers only graduate two seniors, Bill Weaver and Jamal Turner. Both players have been key contributors in their two seasons at Mercyhurst. Weaver averaged 11.5 points and 5 rebounds per game during his senior campaign. Turner served as quarterback of one of the most multi-faceted PSAC offense.

Many Lakers stepped up this year and filled new roles. Leao noted sophomore guard Andrew Rickard as one of the most improved players.

“Andrew caused a mismatch against every team in the league,” said Leao. “His ability to shoot long range and take bigger, slower guys off the dribble effectively made him a multi-dimensional player.”

In addition to players filling new roles, the role of transfer players also helped the Lakers. Ohio University transfer Steve Coleman, Bryant University transfer Lee and Hofstra transfer Paul Bilbo saw a lot of minutes from different positions.

“Transfer players came with knowledge and were able to adapt quickly to our system and style of play,” Leao said.

Freshman Christian Heine, Terrance Ingram and Callon Dailey also saw minutes for the Lakers.

The Lakers hope to continue their streak of success with the return of multiple key players for the 2012-13 season.