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Patriot League Championship: Lindner Shoots Lafayette Past American

Nick Lindner continued his hot scoring run that began in early February to help lift the Lafayette Leopards back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Odd things happen when you don't end up with any of the favorites in your conference championship game. Of course, that requires that you have a favorite at all in your conference.

The Patriot was one of those leagues that just ate its young from week to week. There was no clear team that could win the title, and 10 that could. That is how you end up with the 4-seed and the 6-seed in the conference finals.

And that is how we all get to witness the emergence of Nick Lindner as the shooter that we all can't wait to see in the NCAA Tournament.

The Lafayette sophomore (yeah, keep that in mind, a sophomore on the biggest stage did this) went 9-for-13 from the floor and score 25 as the Leopards downed American 65-63, to earn the Patriot League automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

If you don't watch the Patriot League you are forgiven for not knowing Lindner. So if you are just joining his bandwagon now, Lindner has had a run of now nine games where he hasn't scored less than 12 points. This is in a league where scoring is at a premium, and teams play the slow deliberate game. This includes a game where he scored 30.

Tonight it was just 25, but what a 25 it was. Lindner scored 16 points in the first half and seemed like he couldn't miss.

That only started to make the night special.

It was the end of the game that really cemented Lindner as everyone's new favorite. After a Pee Wee Garnder three, one that cut the lead down to a single point with 42 seconds left, Lafayette got into their halfcourt offense. They passed and cut and tried to get open. Finally Lindner found a seam up the lane and made a fantastic layup that caused the home crowd to erupt.

It was as if they were waiting for him to touch the ball one more time, because then everything would be OK. After all, in the first half, his 16 helped the Leopards build a nine-point lead.

Lindner also drew the foul, but missed the foul shot. He didn't make the same mistake the next time he had the chance at the line, after an odd foul by American after a timeout.

The sophomore saviour swished both, extending the lead to five.

It was necessary too. Gardner, doing what he did all night, sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer that was too little, too late. But without those final foul shots? Oooh, you don't even what to speculate.

Lindner's big night had everyone forgetting what Gardner did for American in the loss. The senior had 12 of his 15 points after halftime, while dishing out seven assists for the Eagles. He seemed to have the answer to everything that Lafayette did in the second half.

There was only so much he could do though as Lafayette would finish the night having shot 64.9 percent from the floor, and with 8 of 15 3-pointers having been true.

American's 10 3-pointers and 49 percent shooting paled in comparison.

Lafayette will be in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000; Lindner was just about to turn 6-years-old. In a week, he will have the chance to make those six-year-old dreams he once entertained come true.