Posted: January 23, 2010
EASTON, Pa. – Behind a balanced offense and a suffocating defense Lehigh downed archrival Lafayette 66-51 on Saturday afternoon at Kirby Sports Center. Three Mountain Hawks hit for double figures, including Courtney Dentler (13), Erica Prosser (11) and Alexa Williams (10), and Lehigh’s “D” held the Leopards to 39% shooting and forced 27 turnovers as the Brown and White downed its rival for the fifth consecutive time. With the win Lehigh improves upon the best start in program history and moves to 17-3 overall and 4-1 in Patriot League play. The Leopards meanwhile suffer their third league loss and now sit at 2-3 in P.L. action and 4-15 overall.
“We gave up some early looks in the game but I thought we tightened our defense up from there,” Mountain Hawks head coach Sue Troyan explained afterwards. “We did a good job of keeping them off-balance when they were on offense. When they run their sets they’re pretty effective out of it, so we just wanted to make them uncomfortable. I thought we had an efficient day on offense as well.”
Troyan then spoke of Lehigh’s balanced scoring. “We distributed our scoring. Our guards played well, our posts played well. I thought Kristen Dalton played well off the bench; she came in and gave us a spark.”
Lehigh shot a solid 46% from the field and sank 13-of-15 at the free throw line, good for 86.7%. Williams led the Mountain Hawks on the glass with seven rebounds, while Kristen Dalton pulled down four. Prosser handed out five of Lehigh’s 15 assists and she also recorded a team best three thefts. The Mountain Hawks dominated in the paint, outscoring their counterparts 40-24 and Lehigh also converted 27 Leopard turnovers into 32 points.
LaKeisha Wright led the home team with 15 points, while Elizabeth Virgin added 13. Wright and Sarah McGorry were the team leaders in rebounds with seven each and Melissa Downey led the team with three helpers. Lafayette connected on only 25% of its shots from beyond the three-point arc but the Leopards did manage to hit 16-of-21 attempts at the charity stripe.
Williams offered her thoughts on being a part of the rivalry. “It’s great to play in these games. No matter the circumstances it’s always a lot of fun to play against Lafayette.” She then spoke of Lehigh’s 8-2 run to begin the contest. “We always want to come out hard and we want to establish a presence in the post and we were able to do that today. Lafayette works hard, you have to give them credit for that. They hustle out there and we just had to make sure we came out just as hard.”
Lehigh began the game on an 8-2 run capped by a lay-up from Tricia Smith less than two minutes in. The Leopards scored the next six points to tie things at eight but the Mountain Hawks regained the lead on a pair of free throws by Dentler. A jumper by Wright brought the Leopards within two at 14-11, while two free throws by Alicia Manning made it a one-point affair, 14-13, with 11:53 on the first half clock.
Dalton ignited a Lehigh run as she hit a short jumper at the 11:01 mark and Emily Gratch followed with a basket of her own to extend the Mountain Hawks lead to five points, 18-13. Ryan Ingalls took a feed from Smith and hit a jumper of her own, this one with 8:52 left before the half, and Lehigh found itself up 20-13. A three from Ross one minute later made it a ten-point game and forced Lafayette to call a timeout. The Leopards answered with four straight to cut into Lehigh’s lead but Ross stole the ball and got it ahead to Prosser for a fast break bucket and a 25-17 advantage.
Another Dalton jumper, this one coming right out of the under-four minute media timeout, pushed Lehigh’s lead to eight, while a Prosser basket with 1:04 to go gave the Mountain Hawks a 32-22 cushion. Prosser then tacked onto Lehigh’s lead as she followed her own miss and scored in one motion to give the Brown and White a 34-22 lead heading into the locker room.
Lehigh shot an even 50% in the half (13-of-26) and held its rival to a 33% showing (7-of-21). Prosser scored eight first half points on four-of-six shooting and Dalton and Dentler added six tallies apiece. Williams grabbed four boards in the opening 20 minutes and Prosser dished out three of her assists. Wright netted 11 points for the home team, but Lehigh held a 20-12 advantage in the paint and outscored Lafayette 19-9 off of turnovers to take a 12-point lead into halftime.
Lehigh maintained its double-digit advantage throughout the second half, extending to a 16-point lead on a bucket by Gratch and two free throws by Dentler. The lead swelled to 18 on a Dalton jumper at the 12:56 mark and a three from Ingalls with 12:01 to go again gave the Brown and White an 18-point lead. Lafayette cut the Mountain Hawks advantage down to 14 when Lauren Jackson hit a free throw with 10:22 to go but Smith came back down and got to the hoop for an easy basket and a 51-35 lead.
Following two free throws by Dentler at the 4:10 mark Lehigh found itself up 60-43, but Wright answered with a score for the home team and Virgin followed with a basket of her own to cut the Mountain Hawks’ lead down to 13. Jackson then hit a lay-up with 1:33 on the clock and Lehigh’s lead was down to 11 at 60-49. The Mountain Hawks were unfazed however as Ross took a feed from Smith and buried a three right in front of the Lehigh bench to seal the win.
Lehigh - Lafayette Post-Game Extra
Lehigh will play its next three games at home beginning on Wednesday evening when the Mountain Hawks host the Bucknell Bison at Stabler Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:05 and tickets may be purchased by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by logging onto Lehighsports.com or at the arena box office prior to tip-off.
Photography (c) Katie Matis, 2010