Posted: January 31, 2010
WORCESTER, Mass. – Bolstered by a career-high 31 point effort by freshman Gabe Knutson Lehigh raced past Holy Cross 78-60 on Sunday afternoon at the Hart Center. The win is Lehigh’s first over the Crusaders in Worcester since 1998 and is the Mountain Hawks’ largest victory over Holy Cross in school history. Knutson sank 11-of-15 shots on the afternoon and was joined in double digits by classmate C.J. McCollum who scored 17 points and senior captain Dave Buchberger who added 11. With the win Lehigh improves to 14-8 overall and moves into a first place tie in the Patriot League with a 5-2 record. The Crusaders were led by freshman Dee Goens’ 13 points as they fall to 5-17 overall and 2-5 in the league.
“This was a tremendous all-around team victory for us today,” Lehigh head coach Brett Reed said afterwards. “I thought we got great contributions from our bench in terms of energy and defensive pressure, Gabe Knutson was able to score effectively and our seniors did a great job of leading us.” He continued, “We were able to build a lead on Holy Cross and never stopped competing; we made the lead grow and picked up a huge victory.”
Lehigh shot 47% from the field and held Holy Cross to a 32% showing. Buchberger and classmate Marquis Hall led the Brown and White with six rebounds apiece, while Hall and junior Michael Ojo dished out three assists. Hall, who scored only two points, spoke of taking on less of a scoring role this season. “My scoring has decreased this season and I’m totally comfortable with that. We have a great freshmen class that can score and the other guys around me are stepping up and making shots. But we know that we’re only at the halfway point (of the league schedule). It’s nice to be tied for first place but there is a lot of work ahead of us.”
The Mountain Hawks forced Holy Cross into 17 turnovers and scored 25 points off those turnovers. Lehigh also outscored Holy Cross 42-20 in the paint led by Knutson’s career afternoon. Andrew Keister posted a double-double for the home team with 12 points and 14 rebounds and as a team the Crusaders sank 23-of-28 shots at the foul line.
Holy Cross took an early 7-2 lead on Lehigh but the Mountain Hawks ran off seven straight points capped by a three-point play from Knutson to take a 9-7 lead with 12:39 on the first half clock. A Jordan Stevens three-pointer at the 10:39 mark gave the Crusaders a 14-11 advantage, while a Keister lay-up made the score 16-13 in favor of Holy Cross a minute later. A 7-0 run by Lehigh, which included a Knutson bucket, a Rob Keefer three-pointer and a jumper from Ojo gave the lead back to Lehigh at 20-16, but Holy Cross answered and tied things at 20 with 5:21 to go before halftime.
The Crusaders’ Andrew Beinert hit a three-pointer with exactly 3:30 to go which tied the game for the fourth time in the half but Lehigh ripped off eight straight points capped by a steal and emphatic dunk by McCollum to make the score 33-25 with 1:07 to go. Lehigh wound up taking a 34-26 lead into the locker room after shooting 46% from the field. Knutson scored 17 points in the opening 20 minutes, while McCollum added eight. Both teams pulled down 16 rebounds but the Mountain Hawks defense limited the Crusaders to 31% shooting and forced nine turnovers.
A Knutson lay-up right out of the gate to start the second gave Lehigh its largest lead of the day at 36-26, while another Knutson basket, this one coming with 18:13 on the clock, gave the Brown and White another ten-point bulge. A jumper and three-pointer by Buchberger pushed the lead to 14 at 47-33 but Holy Cross got to within ten with 13 minutes to go.
With Lehigh leading 49-37 Knutson stole the ball, threw it ahead to Ojo who then returned the ball to Knutson for a huge dunk that brought the Lehigh bench to its feet and gave the Mountain Hawks a 51-37 advantage. The lead then swelled to 18 with 9:46 to go and from there the Brown and White rolled to its first victory over the Crusaders in Worcester since 1998. Lehigh has also scored 70 or more points in 11 consecutive games, marking the first time since 1993 that has happened.
Lehigh - Holy Cross Post-Game Show
Lehigh now has one week off before the second half of Patriot League play begins on Saturday, February 6 when the Mountain Hawks travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the American Eagles at Bender Arena. Tip-off is set for 2:00 and all of the action will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 as well as Lehighsports.com with veteran Matt Kerr on the call. Pre-game coverage gets underway at 1:30.