Mountain Hawks stage comeback to down Lions
Posted: January 2, 2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Trailing 17-2 after six minutes of play, Lehigh unleashed a furious rally and outscored Columbia 71 to 42 the rest of the way en route to a 73-59 victory over the Lions on Friday afternoon at Stabler Arena. Sophomore Rob Keefer scored a career-high 20 points on seven-of-ten shooting, while junior Zahir Carrington matched his season-high with 21 points as the Mountain Hawks improved to 10-3 with the win. Columbia was led on offense by Joe Bova and Niko Scott with ten points apiece, as the Lions fall to 4-8.
Watch the Lehigh - Columbia Post-Game Show
“We knew we were a better team than we were showing (at the beginning of the game),” Keefer explained afterwards. “I hit my first couple of shots and was able to keep it going for the rest of the game.”
Junior captain Marquis Hall added, “That was the type of physical game we’re going to see once we get into Patriot League play so this was a good test today. We hadn’t beaten them (Columbia) since I’ve been here so this was definitely a game we wanted to win badly.”
Lehigh wound up shooting 44-percent from the field, and dished off 16 assists on 24 field goals. Hall led the Brown and White with six helpers, to go along with his 12 points, while Carrington pulled down a team-best eight rebounds. Lehigh’s bench scored 13 points, led by Michael Ojo’s five, while Prentice Small tied Hall for top honors with six assists. The Mountain Hawks pulled down 43 rebounds as a team did a fairly good job of protecting the basketball, with only 12 turnovers.
Columbia shot 38-percent from the field and had 15 assists on 23 field goals. Bova pulled down nine of the Lion’s 34 rebounds, while Kevin Bulger handed out a game-high nine assists. As a team, Columbia struggled from the outside, connecting on only 6-of-24 three-pointers and 7-of-13 free throws.
A three-pointer by Scott made the score 17-2 in favor of the Lions with 14:02 showing on the first half clock. Rather than panic however, Lehigh maintained its composure and slowly began to chip away at the deficit, scoring nine of the game’s next 12 points to pull to within 20-11 at the 10:34 mark. A three-pointer by the hot-shooting Keefer brought the Mountain Hawks to within six, while a lay up from freshman John Adams made it a four-point game, 20-16 with 7:14 left before halftime.
Lehigh closed to within three on a Keefer jumper, got to within one on a Carrington lay up, and took its first lead since it was 2-0 when Keefer sank yet another jumper at the 4:33 mark. The Mountain Hawks went up by five when Adams scored in the paint, and they took a 31-25 lead into the locker room following a 1-of-2 showing by Carrington at the free throw line.
Like the first half, the second was a physical, tightly whistled affair, as neither team was able to pull away from the other. A Bulger jumper tied things up 36 with 14:35 on the clock, and the Lions surged in front when K.J. Matsui buried a three at the 13:25 mark. Lehigh scored the next seven points however, as it built a six-point advantage. The lead increased to double figures when Keefer took a pass from Hall and drilled a trifecta at the 5:46 mark, while two free throws by Hall with 1:39 on the clock put Lehigh comfortably ahead by 13.
“I think the beginning (of the game) was one of two emotional tales,” Lehigh head coach Brett Reed explained. “Columbia came out with a lot of fire, a lot of intensity and they were taking it to us pretty good there. Fortunately we were able to get our energy level up, stick with our game plan and make a much needed run.”
Reed then spoke of how quickly Lehigh was able to mount a comeback. “I was happy with how quickly we came back because I know how good of a team Columbia is, how physical and intense they are on defense and because this is the type of game we’ll see once we get to league play. However, on the reverse side of that, with the series history between us and Columbia, I know there have been many significant scoring runs, and so I was waiting to see if that would continue to hold true.”
Lehigh is back in action on Wednesday when the Mountain Hawks travel to New Jersey to take on the Princeton Tigers from Jadwin Gym. Tip-off is set for 7:00 and all of the action will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM as well as Lehighsports.com with Matt Kerr and Hall of Famer Marty Horn ’86 providing the commentary. Pre-game coverage gets underway at 6:30.