Posted: January 28, 2009
LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Mountain Hawks outscored the Bison, 25-3, over the final eight minutes of the first half and ran away with a 66-53 victory on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. Tricia Smith scored a game-high 17 points as the Mountain Hawks improved to 16-5 on the season.
Lehigh’s 5-1 Patriot League record puts it in first place in the league standings after American’s loss to Navy on Wednesday night dropped the Eagles out of a tie for the top spot. Bucknell drops to 10-9, with a 2-4 mark in league play, after the loss.
Smith’s 17 points were a season high for the senior guard, and fell just one off her career high. She also buried a career-high tying three 3-pointers in the win.
“We’ve been bugging her a lot to shoot that three,” Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan said. “And it was nice to see her step in when they were playing off her and be confident with shooting.”
The Mountain Hawks essentially put the game away in the first half, by dominating the Bison for the final eight minutes of the period. Morgan Wrightson tied the score at 16 with 8:10 left in the first, but the Brown and White would explode for a 17-1 run to extend the score to 33-17 with less than two minutes remaining in the half.
“The run at the end of the half really made a statement,” Troyan said. “And to get the big lead going into the half was really important.”
Courtney Molinaro jump started the offense with a bucket in traffic that opened the lead to 22-16 with just more than six minutes remaining. On the next possession, Alex Ross found Erica Prosser in transition for a three from the wing, giving Lehigh an eight-point lead for the first time all night.
And the lead would only grow from there, as Bucknell would not make a field goal for a span of 6:37. The Mountain Hawks, meanwhile, refused to miss, as they tore the nets up to a tune of 60 percent (15-for-25) from the field in the period. Lehigh also shot 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the period, with six of those freebies coming in the 17-1 run.
Joyce Novacek halted the scoring drought for the Bison with a layup at 1:33 remaining in the half, but it did little to halt Lehigh’s momentum. Alexa Williams came back on the next possession to sink a layup with a foul, and converted the old-fashioned 3-point play to extend the lead back up to 36-19. Then, in case anyone missed it the first time, the freshman center repeated the trick with another 3-point play in traffic on the next possession.
Prosser capped off the first half with a bang as she held for the final shot and buried a runner in the lane to give Lehigh a 22-point halftime lead, its largest advantage at the break since league play began.
“The kids came into the game really focused and knew what they had to do,” Troyan said. “They executed on both ends and played as well as we have in a half on the offensive and defensive ends.”
The Bison didn’t go away quietly in the second half, however. After an Alex Ross 3-pointer gave Lehigh its largest lead of the game, 46-21, Bucknell responded with a 15-4 run of its own to cut the gap to just 14 points with 14 minutes remaining.
The lead would shrink to as little as 13 points with 11:28 remaining, but the Bison seemed to be unable to cut the deficit any more, as they traded baskets with the Mountain Hawks over the next seven minutes, coming as close as 13 multiple times, but no closer.
“They’re a quality team,” Troyan said. “We told the girls that they would likely make a run at us at some time. It was a good learning experience to stay confident through that. “
Novacek helped Bucknell finally inch closer as she sank a layup in the lane to make the score 62-51 with 4:07 remaining, but it was too little, too late as the Mountain Hawks held on for the 13-point win. A shot-clock violation for the Bison with 1:57 to play symbolized Bucknell’s inability to close the gap with limited time remaining.
Erica Prosser and Alex Ross each scored in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively. The Mountain Hawks had nine players score at least a point on Wednesday night.
“The big thing today was balanced scoring,” Troyan said. “That was a point of emphasis going into this game. Bucknell didn’t have a real deep bench and we wanted to use our depth tonight.”
Lehigh returns to action on Saturday afternoon when the Mountain Hawks head to Worcester, Mass. to take on Holy Cross at 1 p.m.
Buzzer beaters: Wednesday was junior guard Alex Ross’ 21st birthday…With the inclement weather in the area, the Mountain Hawks headed out to Bucknell on Tuesday night instead of Wednesday afternoon, as originally planned. They are now 3-3 on overnight trips this season…Bucknell’s Lauren Schober came into the game needing 13 points to reach 1,000 career points, but Lehigh held her to just 12 points, to keep her at 999 in her career.
Mountain Hawks Post-Game Extra with Steve Lomangino