skip navigation

Colgate holds off Lafayette to clinch Patriot League regular season title

02/19/2024, 10:45pm EST
By Corky Blake

By Corky Blake (@CorkyBlake)

Never underestimate the value of having veterans, especially seniors, on the court in crunch time.

Fifth-year senior Ryan Moffatt of Hempfield High School, who did a post-graduate year at the Hill School, was playing in his 128th career game when Colgate visited Lafayette in a meeting between the top two teams in the Patriot League on Monday night.

Senior backup center Jeff Woodward of Methacton High School saw action in his 113th contest that was televised nationally by CBS SportsNetwork.

And Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year Keegan Records, a fifth-year senior center/forward, scored 21 points in his 145th outing for the Raiders (20-8, 14-1), which needed every one of those points to get past the only league team that’s defeated them, 67-62.

“I think a huge part of it is that we’ve been here before,” Woodward said. “Most of our guys have been through this and know what it takes … not just in the final two minutes like tonight, but how to prepare for games like this and have experienced leadership out there. We can use this as a springboard the rest of the way.”

Hill School and Hempfield product Ryan Moffatt feel like the old man in the Patriot League. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)

Moffatt admitted he feels like the old man of the league, but clinching a fifth consecutive regular-season championship and chasing after a fourth straight tournament title and accompanying automatic NCAA Tournament bid keeps him young. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward did his part by going 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final 3:30 as Colgate erased a 62-59 deficit by scoring the final eight points.

The only field goal of the Raiders’ closing 11 points was a gutsy 16-foot pull-up jumper from the left side by sophomore guard Braeden Smith that extended their lead to 65-62 with 15.9 seconds remaining. Records’ pair of free throws pushed Colgate into the lead for good 45 seconds earlier.

“Braeden’s a sophomore, but he has a ton of experience,” Moffatt said. “For our young guys getting minutes and experience in a win like this is big.”

Lafayette, which entered its Patriot League opener on Jan. 3 against Army with a 1-12 record (and that win was against Division III Wilkes), has been the surprise team of the league. After defeating Army and Boston U, the Leopards went to Hamilton, N.Y. on Jan. 10, and stunned Colgate, 69-64, to hand the Raiders their first league home loss since Jan. 3, 2021.

Mike McGarvey, who took over for Mike Jordan late last season when the former Penn star was put on administrative leave, had the interim tag removed for the 2023-24 season. He’s now a serious candidate for Coach of the Year honors after directing the Leopards to a 10-4 league mark entering Monday’s game.

For 38 minutes, Lafayette showed its victory over Colgate wasn’t a fluke. Only in the final 120 seconds when the Leopards failed to extend their 62-59 lead, the Raiders scored on all four possessions and the hosts came up empty in their last four offensive trips did the championship pedigree differentiate the programs.

“Colgate is a well-established entity in this league, and I feel we’re going to be in time,” said McGarvey, a two-time Centennial Conference Player of the Year at Ursinus where his number is retired. “When I look at this game there’ll be a couple of possessions that I’ll feel great about, and others not so great. We’ll learn how to close out games like this.”

McGarvey was surprised the foul line turned out to be his team’s Waterloo. Colgate was 21-for-26 overall from the free throw line to offset 2-for-9 shooting from 3-point range. Lafayette went 16-for-23 from the line but was 5-for-11 at one point in the second half before Devin Hines converted both ends of a 1-and-1 to break a 56-all tie.

“It’s (free throw shooting) been great. We were shooting 75 percent over our last five games,” McGarvey said. “We’ve been really good but not tonight.”

Mark Butler, the lightning-quick freshman point guard from Penn Charter, led Lafayette with six assists with many of them drive-and-dish passes for corner 3-pointers. His coast-to-coast layup to beat the buzzer drew the Leopards to 34-33 after trailing by as many as nine points three minutes earlier. 

But Colgate, which had won its previous seven games by a 17-point margin, stared at another potential loss to Lafayette and didn’t blink thanks to a culture built by veteran coach Matt Langel that winning is the bottom line.

“That (loss to Lafayette) was a long time ago,” said Langel, the former Penn star. “We’re a totally different team. Our style of play has changed, and defense has been our anchor. A lot of our offense comes from our defense.”

Indeed, the Raiders almost met their league-leading defensive standard of 60.4 points allowed per game.

“We’ve harped on playing together, and our connectivity with each other has really shown up at the defensive end,” said Woodward, who contributed five points in 14 minutes. “When I go in, I just try to maximize my time on the court. I’m not one to complain about minutes. I want to do whatever I can to help the team win. That’s my mindset.”

“Jeff comes off the bench, but we think of him as a starting center,” Langel said. “He just happens to be playing with Keegan, who is a Player of the Year candidate.”

Moffatt ranks third in league history in career 3-point percentage (43.2) and has six games this season with at least four 3s. Though he was just 1-for-3 from beyond the arc, Moffatt made his impact with 11 points, five rebounds and a plus-13 court rating. He’s been averaging 10.8 points and 4.7 rebounds a game.

“Throughout my career I’ve developed a bigger and bigger role,” Moffatt said. “What I try to do every game is make winning plays. I’m not going to force shots; my shots will come. Every game I want to find a way to help us win.”  

Colgate, as the top seed, will play every Patriot League tournament game at Cotterell Court where the Raiders are next-to-impossible to defeat. They play at home Sunday against American (on CBSSN) and then finish the regular season on the road at Holy Cross and Lehigh.

“When the season starts, every (Division I) team sets out to win its league’s regular-season championship,” Langel said. “For us to do it with still three games left is a testament to these kids and how hard they prepare and play every time out.”

Lafayette remained in second place at 10-5 but is just ahead of American (8-6), Lehigh (7-7) and Bucknell (7-7). The top four teams earn quarterfinal home games. The Leopards return to action Saturday at home against rival Lehigh.

“I think the break will help, and they’ll be motivated to play great against Lehigh,” McGarvey. 

The Mountain Hawks edged Lafayette 94-90 in double overtime on Feb. 10.

D-I Coverage:

Small-College News:

Recruiting News:

Tag(s): Home  Contributors  College  Division I