BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Don’t read too much into the way this one ended. In the very same fashion, you probably shouldn’t put too much stock into the way the Lebanon Valley College men’s basketball season has begun.
Stay calm. Take a step back. View the big picture. And just go with it.
On Tuesday night at Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium, the Flying Dutchmen remained unbeaten in the early going, with an 82-72 non-conference triumph over Elizabethtown. After leading 42-24 at the break and by as many as 20 points early in the second half, the Bue Jays threw a scare into Lebanon Valley with a barrage of three-pointers down the stretch.
But while Lebanon Valley didn’t close the way it would’ve liked, the bottom line was that it moved to 4-0 on the season – its best start in recent memory. With the setback, Elizabethtown fell to 0-3.
“It’s a win,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Brad McAlester. “I’m pleased we’re 4-0. I’m ecstatic. It’s been a long time since we’ve been 4-0.
“In the first half we did real well defensively,” added McAlester. “In the second half we had some lapses. We wanted to force the ball one way. We lost some of our intensity.”
“When you get a lead like that, you’ve just got to keep a level head,” said Lebanon Valley senior guard Sam Light. “Keep chillin’. You can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. You’ve got to keep your intensity up. You want to be aggressive. You don’t want to have lulls.
“Overall, I think things are going good,” added Light. “We want to come everyday and play hard. We’re a veteran team. We know what to expect.”
LVC enjoyed a 66-48 lead with 6:26 to go, on a charity toss from senior ‘big’ Andy Orr. But fronted by a quartet of three-pointers, Elizabethtown tallied 24 of the next 30 points to pull within 78-72, with 50 ticks remaining.
Lebanon Valley righted its ship with free throws from Orr and Zach Tucker.
“You want to maintain it,” said McAlester of his side’s earlier leads. “You can’t worry about increasing it. Then you start putting subs in. We gave up too many offensive rebounds. We gave up too many threes. They weren’t easy threes, but they (the Blue Jays) made them.
“I’m happy for Britt (Elizabehtown rookie head coach Moore),” McAlester continued. “He took over a program that was down a little bit and he’s doing a good job. His kids play hard. We’re playing a lot of players. We need to play better defense. I thought Andy (Orr) played just OK.”
“They (the Blue Jays) got some decent looks, and they went down,” said Light, a product of Northern Lebanon. “Credit them. They played hard. But we need to play better defense.”
Light drilled a three-pointer three minutes into the second half to give Lebanon Valley a 48-28 bulge, its biggest of the contest. Ten minutes later, a Chris Anderson lay-in made the Flying Dutchmen’s lead 65-46.
“Andy and Sam are our key guys,” said McAlester. “But we have other guys who can score, who can make jump shots. Tonight we had four guys in double figures. We play a lot of guys. Tonight we played 11 guys.”
With 22 points on nine-of-12 shooting from the field, Light paced the Flying Dutchmen attack. Ricky Bugg tallied 16 LVC points, Orr pumped in 15 points and hauled down nine rebounds and Anderson threw in a dozen.
The Flying Dutchmen shot 49 percent from the floor and outscored Elizabethtown 17-4 at the free throw line. The Blue Jays notched 48 second-half points.
“It was a good team win,” said Light. “We shot pretty good in the first half. We moved the ball and Ricky Bugg was huge. He was aggressive. And we were patient.”
It was a 17-3 run that allowed Lebanon Valley to gain control of the flow and grab a 25-13 lead. Light and Bugg each tallied five points during the burst.
“I just keep playing my game,” said Light. “I try to lead by example. I don’t think things have changed too much. I just try to check my ego at the door and try to keep a level head.”
“We want to be involved with the league championship,” said McAlester. “We want to get to the NCAA tournament. You always want to get better. We’re four games in. We need to find our identity.”
The Flying Dutchmen scored the final 11 points of the first half. Bugg had five of those, Light tallied a pair of deuces and Orr scored as well.
“I’m not going to say too much,” said Light, when asked for his goals for the season. “I don’t have many specific goals I want to put out there. We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”
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