Posted: February 21, 2010
EASTON, Pa. – Lafayette connected on 16-of-29 three-pointers and shot 59% overall as the Leopards downed Lehigh 90-75 on Sunday afternoon at Kirby Sports Center. C.J. McCollum recorded his third double-double of the season with 28 points and 10 rebounds but it was not enough as the Mountain Hawks fall back into a first place tie in the Patriot League with an 8-4 league mark. Lehigh, which is 17-10 overall, is currently tied with Bucknell, who the Brown and White will host on Wednesday evening. Lafayette improves to 16-11 overall and 7-5 in the league following the win with Ryan Willen leading the Leopards with 22 points.
Mountain Hawks head coach Brett Reed gave his thoughts after the game. “I would have liked to see us come out with a higher level of defensive intensity today but give Lafayette credit. They shot the ball extremely well this afternoon and made it difficult for us to defend them.” He continued, “When Lafayette is shooting the basketball like they did today they are a very tough team, particularly at home. Looking at the box score, Jared Mintz scored only nine points for Lafayette and usually I would take those odds. But today we did not do a good job of defending the three-point line and Lafayette took advantage.”
Lehigh shot a respectable 46.8% from the field but the Mountain Hawks only hit on 30% from downtown, with McCollum struggling through a 1-of-8 showing from beyond the arc. Joining McCollum in double figures were senior captain Marquis Hall (14), classmate Zahir Carrington (12) and freshman Gabe Knutson (10). McCollum grabbed ten of Lehigh’s 31 rebounds, while Carrington totaled six. McCollum dished out six assists and Hall handed out four but Lehigh committed 15 turnovers and shot only 11-of-17 at the free throw line.
Lafayette placed four players in double digits with Willen leading the way with 22 points. Jeff Kari (18), Jim Mower (16) and Michael Gruner (12) also hit for double figures, while Willen led the charge on the backboards with seven rebounds. Gruner handed out six assists and as a team the Leopards sank 77% at the foul line. Lehigh forced Lafayette into 17 turnovers and scored 24 points off those TOs, but Lafayette got 20 points from its bench and rose its torrid shooting to the victory.
Lehigh raced out to a 10-2 lead on Lafayette, including a ferocious two-hand slam by Knutson, but the Leopards responded with six three-pointers and 18 of the next 22 points to take a 20-15 lead with 12:51 remaining in the half. A Darion Benbow jumper followed by yet another Leopard three-pointer gave the home team a 25-18 advantage at the under-12 media timeout.
Three straight free throws by Lafayette gave the home team its biggest lead of the half at 28-18 with 11:03 on the clock, but Ojo sank a three one minute later and Lehigh was back to within seven. Another Lehigh three, this one coming from Halll at the 9:45 mark pulled the Mountain Hawks within four at 28-24, but Willen hit a jumper on the Leopards’ next possession and Lehigh was down six.
The Mountain Hawks trailed by only four following a pair of free throws by McCollum with 8:28 to play and following a Carrington slam, this one off a feed from Hall, at the 7:37 mark, it was a two-point affair, 34-32. Gruner responded with a three and a jumper for Lafayette as the Leopards opened up a 39-32 lead, while a Jim Mower three with 4:51 to go gave the home team a 42-35 advantage. The teams traded points for the remainder of the half with Lehigh held without a field goal for the final 3:08 and Lafayette ultimately took a 47-41 lead into the locker room.
Both teams shot very well in the first half with Lehigh connecting on 51% from the floor and Lafayette hitting on 65% of its attempts. The Leopards also sank 9-of-16 three-pointers, good for 56%, while Lehigh struggled from beyond the arc, hitting only 4-of-11 attempts (36%). McCollum scored 13 first half points for the Brown and White, while Hall added 11 and Carrington added eight and a game-high five rebounds. Hall and McCollum were the team leaders with two assists apiece, while the Mountain Hawks’ “D” forced ten Lafayette turnovers and converted them into 13 points.
Lafayette was led on offense by Willen and Gruner with ten points apiece, while Kari added nine. The Leopards pulled down 12 rebounds with Willen ripping down three, while Gruner dished out a team-best three helpers. Lafayette received ten points from its bench, including four points from Jared Mintz, who was questionable before the game due to an injury suffered earlier in the week.
A three-pointer by senior Dave Buchberger got Lehigh to within three right out of the gate to begin the second half, while McCollum’s lay-up one minute later made it a two-point game. But from there Lafayette scored 17 of the next 21 points to take a 67-50 lead with 15:12 remaining. Lehigh scored the next six points and was within 67-56 with 13:25 to play but Lafayette went on a quick 4-0 run and went back in front by 15.
Lehigh got to within 11 on two more occasions, the last time coming on a three from McCollum with 5:05 on the clock, but that was as close as the Mountain Hawks would get as their two-game win streak is snapped.
Hall gave his thoughts on what Lehigh needs to improve upon prior to Wednesday’s game. “Defense obviously will be a focus for us. Lafayette is a good team and they are an even better team when they are shooting the way they did today. We’re going to need to focus and bring it on Wednesday night because Bucknell is another good team.”
Lehigh - Lafayette Post-Game Extra
Lehigh returns to action on Wednesday evening when the Mountain Hawks begin the final week of the regular season versus the Bucknell Bison at Stabler Arena in a showdown for first place in the Patriot League. Tip-off on February 24 is set for 7:05 and tickets can be purchased by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by logging onto Lehighsports.com or at the arena box office prior to tip-off.
Despite Sunday's loss Lehigh did clinch a home game in the quarterfinal round of the 2010 Patriot League Tournament by virtue of American's loss. Lehigh will host a quarterfinal contest at Stabler Arena on Wednesday, March 3. The start time will be announced at a later date.