Posted: February 21, 2009
EASTON, Pa. – Lehigh completed the season sweep over archrival Lafayette with a 73-58 victory at the Kirby Sports Center on Saturday. Four Mountain Hawks scored in double figures, as Lehigh used its depth to put the game away in the second half.
The Mountain Hawks improve to 21-6 with the win, and move to 10-2 in league play, tying a school record for Patriot League wins set in 2005. The Leopards fall to 8-19 and 2-10 in the Patriot League with the loss.
The win was Lehigh’s first at the Kirby Sports Center since 2005, when fifth-year guard Claire Sullivan was a freshman. No other Lehigh player had earned a win in Easton until Saturday. The Mountain Hawks have now won three consecutive games against the Leopards including a win in the Patriot League Tournament last year.
“To win it here was pretty great,” junior guard Kristen Dalton said. “The rivalry is always there and we always get pretty pumped.”
Emily Gratch enjoyed the best game of her Lehigh career on Saturday, putting up career highs with 15 points and nine rebounds. The freshman forward also played a career high 20 minutes off the bench as she created matchup problems for the Leopards.
“We knew she was very capable of having days like this,” Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan said. “She scored more than 1,600 points in high school, so we knew she’s the type of kid that can put up numbers. She’s been real patient with her opportunities and she just keeps getting better and better as the season goes on.”
Alex Ross led all Lehigh scorers with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Erica Prosser continued her Patriot League success by putting up 15 points, and Kristen Dalton contributed with 10 points in her fourth start of the season.
Jessica Spicer led all scorers with 18 points for Lafayette in the loss. The senior shot 7-for-17 overall and 4-for-10 from downtown, but the rest of her teammates combined to shoot 0-for-6 from 3-point range and 12-for-39 from the field.
Lehigh used a 12-2 run at the beginning of the second half to turn a nine-point lead into a 19-point lead in less than four minutes. The Mountain Hawks went on the aggressive from the outset of the period, and benefitted from 18 free throw attempts in the second. Of the Mountain Hawks’ 39 second-half points, 15 came from the charity stripe.
Lafayette didn’t fade away on senior night, cutting the lead to as little as 11 points with five minutes remaining. The Kirby Sports Center crowd came back to life and Lehigh was forced to regroup during the media timeout.
Alex Ross erased all the Lehigh fears in the first possession after the timeout, drilling a 3-pointer that bumped the lead back up to 14 points and essentially ended the game with just more than three minutes remaining.
“I thought the defensive effort was real strong today,” Troyan said. “We knew Lafayette would make a run and we held it off. It was a good win to get.”
Lehigh buried five 3-pointers in the first half to help it jump out to a nine-point lead at the break. Dalton and Ross combined for all five triples, as Lehigh shot 5-for-13 from downtown. The Mountain Hawks shot 40 percent from the field overall in the period, with Ross leading the way with 11 points.
Gratch tied her career high with eight points in the first half alone, and broke her career high with five rebounds in the half.
Lehigh controlled the rebounding battle in the first, grabbing 23 boards and allowing Lafayette to pull in just 17. The Mountain Hawks also used eight offensive rebounds to put in 10 second chance points in the first.
Lafayette drew first blood with a 3-pointer by Jessica Spicer to make the score 3-0, but the Mountain Hawks answered back with a 7-0 run to take the lead and the early momentum. The Leopards clawed back to tie the score at 10, but a Ryan Ingalls jumper put Lehigh back on top for the rest of the game.
The Mountain Hawks defense bore down late in the first, holding Lafayette without a field goal for the final 5:28 of the half. A string of free throws by the Leopards kept them in the game, but Lehigh still managed to extend the lead to 34-25 at the half.
Lehigh returns to action on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. when the Mountain Hawks host the Bucknell Bison at Stabler Arena.
Buzzer beaters: With the win, Lehigh has now won the last eight meetings with Lafayette in all sports this year…Lehigh is 3-0 in men’s and women’s basketball combined against Lafayette this season. The men will square off Sunday at noon…The Leopards celebrated senior day prior to the game, honoring the five seniors on the roster. All five seniors were in the starting lineup for the game.