EASTON, Pa. (AP) Nick Lindner was left off the Patriot League's first and second teams. Right now, the Lafayette point guard is looking like the league's best player.
Lindner scored 25 points - including two game-clinching free throws with 14.5 seconds left - and the Leopards held off several second-half runs by American to beat the Eagles 65-63 in the Patriot League tournament championship Wednesday night.
Fourth-seeded Lafayette (20-12) became the lowest seed to win the league tournament title - and its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament - in its 25-year history.
Lindner scored 71 points in the three tournament games on 24-of-39 shooting and added 16 assists to earn the tourney MVP honors.
''(Lindner) is on one of the biggest runs I've ever seen,'' Lafayette's Seth Hinrichs said. ''He's just carried us the last three games.''
After defending champion and sixth-seeded American (17-16) took 55-53 lead on Marko Vasic's 3-point play with 5:07 left, the Lafayette got consecutive 3-pointers from Hinrichs and Zach Rufer to regain the lead for good.
With Lafayette up 61-60, Lindner hit a driving shot with 38 seconds left. After American's John Schoof missed a 3, and Lindner made his two free throws to seal it.
Hinrichs finished witih 16 points and Rufer had five points and five rebounds in 10 minutes off the bench.
''Without (Rufer), we're not winning the game,'' Hinrichs said.
Rufer hadn't scored that many points since Jan. 2.
''It's something I'm used to,'' he said of limited minutes. ''I've been doing it all year. It's something I just try to get better at.''
Vasic and Pee Wee Gardner had 15 points each to lead the Eagles.
Lafayette opened up its biggest lead at 40-27 early in the second half on consecutive 3-pointers by Bryce Scott and Michael Hoffman, but American responded with seven in a row to pull within six on Gardner's basket with 15:47 remaining.
Lafayette then led 48-36 after three consecutive pull-up jumpers by Hinrichs, but American scored nine straight points to pull to 50-47 with less than 9 minutes left.
Lindner scored 16 points in the first half to give Lafayette a 34-25 lead at the break.
American had nine field goals and 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
The Eagles led until Lindner hit an open 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Leopards a 17-15 lead with 10:45 to go in the first half. Lafayette led the rest of the half.
Lafayette, which made 13 of 19 shots (68.4 percent) in the opening half, had runs of 11-0 and 7-0 to create a little cushion. Lindner's drive with 1:40 remaining gave the Leopards their biggest lead of the half at 30-21.
Lafayette: The Leopards last won a league tournament title in 2000, the second of two in a row. They were 0-4 in Patriot League finals before Wednesday.
American: The Eagles finished the regular season with a losing record in league play (8-10) for just the second time since joining the Patriot League in 2001-02 season. Their sixth-place finish also was their lowest in their 14-year affiliation with the league. However, they beat Lehigh in the quarterfinals and second-seeded Colgate in the semis.
Lafayette: NCAA Tournament.
American: Possible NIT or CIT bid.