Posted: November 18, 2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Freshman C.J. McCollum received his first career start on Wednesday evening and the Ohio native did not disappoint as he hit for a game-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting to lift Lehigh to a 79-71 victory over Quinnipiac in the Mountain Hawks 2009-10 home opener at Stabler Arena. Junior Rob Keefer added 13 points, while classmate Michael Ojo hit for 11 as Lehigh improves to 1-2 on the young season. Quinnipiac’s James Feldeine matched McCollum with 22 points of his own and he also pulled down ten rebounds but it was not enough as the Bobcats fall to 1-1 following the setback.
“Tonight’s game was a difficult matchup against a very tough opponent,” Lehigh head coach Brett Reed said afterwards. “I like the contributions we received off our bench and I like the way our team fought through some adversity towards the end of the game as Quinnipiac made a serious push and hit some big shots.”
Reed then commented on the play of McCollum. “C.J. is a very skilled player who has the ability to score the basketball. It’s difficult for a freshman to come in and be a consistent scorer. They are going to see a variety of different defenses and looks, but C.J. has a knack to put the basketball in the hoop and tonight you were able to see those skills.”
Bolstered by a 48-percent shooting effort in the second half Lehigh finished with a 44% clip on the evening. McCollum sank four three-pointers while Keefer was a perfect two-of-two behind the arc and five-of-six at the free throw line. Junior Michael Ojo led the Brown and White with eight of the team’s 37 rebounds and senior captain Marquis Hall dished out ten helpers for the second consecutive game.
The Bobcats shot 40% for the game and placed three players in double figures, including Feldeine, Justin Rutty (19) and James Johnson with ten. Johnson added five assists while as a team Quinnipiac hit only three-of-15 from behind the arc.
Lehigh jumped out to a quick 5-0 start on a basket by Zahir Carrington and a three from Hall, while a lay-up from Knutson with 17:17 on the clock gave the Brown and White an early 9-4 lead. Jordan Hamilton gave Lehigh a 14-6 advantage with a lay-up of his own at the 11:28 mark while a three from Keefer with 10:03 left in the half extended Lehigh’s lead to 17-7. A James Feldeine jumper brought Quinnipiac to within seven with 7:03 to go but Carrington answered with a basket on the other end for Lehigh and the Mountain Hawks were in front 22-13.
Keefer’s second three of the half gave Lehigh a 25-15 advantage with 4:34 left before halftime but from there the Bobcats slowly crept their way back into it as they ran off 14 of the game’s next 18 points to surge in front 32-31 with 34 ticks to go. Keefer was fouled with only two seconds to go on a drive to the basket and calmly sank a pair at the charity stripe to give Lehigh a one-point lead at intermission.
Lehigh shot 39% from the field in the half and was led on offense by Keefer’s 11 points, while Hall added five tallies. Michael Ojo led the Mountain Hawks with four rebounds and Hall was the team leader with three assists. Lehigh turned the ball over only six times and sank 8-of-11 at the foul line.
Feldeine led the visitors with 11 points in the opening half as Quinnipiac shot 40-percent as a team and he also pulled down a team-best five rebounds. The Bobcats turned the ball over eight times and shot 63% (7-of-11) from the foul line.
The teams exchanged baskets for the first several minutes of the second half with Lehigh opening up a six point advantage on two foul shots by John Adams with 12:28 to go in the game. An Ojo jumper again gave Lehigh a six-point lead, this time with 11:11 remaining. Lehigh extended to a nine-point lead when McCollum drilled a shot from downtown at the 4:45 mark and the lead grew to ten off a jumper by the smooth freshman with 3:49 to go.
Justin Maneri put Lehigh in front 68-56 with two free throws at the 3:22 mark but like it did in the first half Quinnipiac would not go down easily. A Rutty jumper was followed by a Lehigh turnover and a long three from Deontay Twyman that made the score 69-65 with 1:50 on the clock, while a three from Feldeine again brought the Bobcats within four as 13 seconds were left. Ojo hit two shots at the charity stripe and following a miss by the visitors Ojo got free in the open court for a lay-up at the buzzer which made the final margin eight points.
Service Electric 2 Sports Post-Game Show
Lehigh returns to the court on Monday evening when the Mountain Hawks play host to the Monmouth Hawks at Stabler Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:00 and tickets can be purchased on Lehighsports.com or at the arena box office prior to tip-off.