Five Questions: Zach Rufer

Lafayette junior guard Zach Rufer isn’t 100 percent, coach Fran O’Hanlon says.

Rufer said the discomfort in his left foot has gotten better since he suffered a Lisfranc injury (torn ligament) on Feb. 9.

“I played in pain for about two or three weeks,” said Rufer, a 2012 John S. Burke Catholic graduate.”

Rufer was feeling good enough to help Lafayette to first NCAA appearance since 2000 with a clutch 3-pointer in a 65-63 win over Bucknell in the Patriot League championship last Wednesday.

Next up is No. 1 seed Villanova in an East Regional opening-round game Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

Lafayette (20-12), the 16th seed in the East,  opened the 2013-14 season against Villanova. Rufer’s 3-pointer gave Lafayette its biggest lead (38-32) early in the second half. Villanova’s talent eventually won out over Lafayette in a 75-59 win.

What was your favorite moment of the season? “Definitely winning the Patriot League Championship. At this level, you really try to win your conference. It’s the biggest thing that you can do. If you win some games in the NCAA tournament, it’s kind of the icing on the cake. Winning that was just unbelievable and the support from all the fans. You walk around the campus and everyone is congratulating you. It was just a crazy experience.”

What was the turning point of the season? “Beating Bucknell at Bucknell. In Lafayette’s history, we had never won at Sojka Pavilion in the playoffs before. After we won that, we knew going into the championship game that we had all of the confidence in the world, especially having a home playoff game.”

What makes Lafayette a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament? “Offensively, we are dangerous. We have Nick (Lindner), Dan (Trist), Seth (Hinrichs) and Joey (Ptasinski), they are all very good scorers. They can knock down shots. Coach (Fran O’Hanlon’s) offense have gotten us a lot of wins. Obviously, defense is our weakness a little bit and hopefully we can score some points and see what happens.”

What’s it like playing for Coach O’Hanlon? “It’s been a great experience. There’s always a little bit of a learning curve freshman and sophomore year trying to get use to the system. Our system is not an easy one to play in because there’s a lot to learn. Coach O has an unlimited amount of year of experience. He’s a guard himself so he knows the game better than anyone.”

What kind of challenge does Villanova present? “We played with them last year (and had a six-point lead early in the second half, 75-59 loss). I’m sure they are going to want to take us out of the game early. They are obviously superior athletically so they are going to try and kill us on the boards. They just have good players Archie (Ryan Arcidiacono) and (Daniel) Ochefu. They have a lot of talent on their team and it’s going to be a real project to deal with.”

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    Ken McMillan

    Ken McMillan has been covering sports since he got his first writing job in 1979. He has covered Section 9 athletics for the past 34 years. He reports on college sports, including Army and Marist College. He also writes on TV/radio sports news, ... Read Full
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