Posted: January 23, 2010
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh erupted for 45 second half points and held archrival Lafayette to 14.8% shooting in the final 20 minutes as the Mountain Hawks raced past the Leopards 75-57 on Saturday evening at Stabler Arena in front of over 3,800 in attendance. Freshman C.J. McCollum scored a game-high 23 points for Lehigh, while senior Zahir Carrington added 19 points and classmate Marquis Hall dished out ten assists as the Mountain Hawks improve to 9-1 at Stabler Arena this season and 13-7 overall. Lehigh also moves into a first place tie in the Patriot League with Lafayette as both teams stand at 4-1. The Leopards are now 13-7 overall.
“I thought the defensive pressure and intensity we brought in the second half was a big difference,” Lehigh head coach Brett Reed explained. “Lafayette is a very dangerous offensive team and they showed that in the first half. But we came out with more energy and focus in the second half than we showed in the first half and our offense really started to click.” He continued, “Marquis struggled a little with his shooting tonight but he recorded double digit assists and only committed two turnovers. And Zahir brought tremendous energy and passion as he always does. Our entire team feeds off of his energy and leadership and along with a great environment it all came together in that second half.”
Carrington spoke about getting the win over Lehigh’s rival. “All of the individual accolades are great but the win is what’s most important. Our goal this season is to win a championship and that’s what we’re focused on. That was a great environment tonight; we really fed off the crowd and it was a lot of fun to play in that game.”
Bolstered by a 51.5% shooting performance in the second half, Lehigh wound up shooting 45% from the floor, including a 9-of-21 showing from three-point range (42.9%). The Mountain Hawks out rebounded the Leopards 46-32 led by sophomore John Adams with eight and McCollum with six. Hall recorded his sixth game of double digit assists this season as Lehigh handed out 18 helpers on 27 field goals. The Brown and White scored 28 points in the paint to Lafayette’s 14 and the Mountain Hawks held a commanding 18-2 advantage in second chance points.
Lafayette placed two players in double figures with Ryan Willen hitting for 12 points and Jim Mower adding 10. Michael Gruner pulled down a team-high six boards and Jared Mintz and Darion Benbow both handed out two assists.
Senior Dave Buchberger scored the game’s first points on a three-pointer and Carrington hit a jumper on Lehigh’s next possession to give the Mountain Hawks an early 5-0 lead. McCollum then drilled a trifecta and Lehigh had an 8-2 lead with 16:14 on the first half clock. Lafayette ran off five straight however and pulled within one at 8-7 before Knutson sank a pair at the line to give LU a three-point edge. A Jim Mower three-pointer tied the game for the first time at ten but Lehigh answered with baskets from Knutson and Hall to take a 14-10 lead.
McCollum’s jumper at the 11:40 mark gave Lehigh an 18-14 advantage but Mower sank two free throws and the Leopards were within two at 18-16. Mower then drilled another three, this one coming with 7:42 on the clock and Lafayette took its first lead of the night at 21-10. Ryan Willen followed with yet another three for the Leopards and Lehigh found itself down 24-20 at the 6:10 mark. Buckets by Carrington and McCollum tied things at 24 but Willen sank a jumper 50 seconds later and Lafayette was in front once again.
McCollum hit his second three of the half with 2:50 left before intermission as Lehigh re-took the lead at 29-28, but Ben Wheeler hit a long three from the top of the key and Lafayette went back on top 31-29. Later, Jeff Kari converted a Michael Gruner steal into a basket for the visitors and the Leopards wound up taking a 35-30 lead into halftime.
McCollum sank four-of-six shots from the field en route to ten first half points for Lehigh, while Carrington added eight and Knutson scored six. Lehigh shot only 37% from the floor and 33% from three-point range but did out rebound the Leopards 19-14 led by Knutson and John Adams with four apiece. No Mountain Hawk handed out more than one assist but the Brown and White held a 10-2 advantage on second chance points.
Lafayette shot a sizzling 52% in the half with Willen scoring 11 points and Mower adding eight. The Leopards pulled down 14 rebounds led by Gruner’s four, while Mintz and Darion Benbow handed out two assists apiece. Lafayette committed only six turnovers and scored 12 points off of eight Lehigh TOs.
Two Mintz free throws early in the second gave Lafayette a 37-30 lead but from there Lehigh scored 11 straight capped by a McCollum jumper as the Mountain Hawks surged in front 41-37 at the 16:18 mark. Lafayette battled back though and pulled to within a point on another pair of free throws by Mintz with 15:34 remaining. A McCollum three, a Holden Greiner lay-up and another bucket from McCollum gave the Mountain Hawks an eight-point edge with 12:20 to go, while McCollum’s three with 10:57 on the clock gave the home team a 54-45 lead.
Michael Ojo’s three-pointer at the 9:23 mark gave the Brown and White its first double digit lead of the night and from there Lehigh ran off 16 of the game’s next 25 points to open up a 19-point advantage with 2:25 remaining. From there only one more point was scored as Lehigh rolled to its largest victory over Lafayette since 2006.
Lehigh - Lafayette Post-Game Show
Lehigh hits the road for its next three games beginning on Wednesday evening when the Mountain Hawks travel to Lewisburg to take on the Bucknell Bison at Sojka Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 7:00 and all of the action will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 as well as Lehighsports.com with Matt Kerr on the call.