Posted: February 24, 2010
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh was hitting on all cylinders on Wednesday evening as the Mountain Hawks rolled past Bucknell 81-59 at Stabler Arena to clinch at least a share of the 2010 Patriot League regular season championship. In the process, C.J. McCollum became the all-time leading freshman scorer in Patriot League history as he totaled 29 points to raise his season total to 516, which surpasses the all-time league mark of 509 set by former Colgate great Adonal Foyle during the 1994-95 season. Two other Mountain Hawks, including junior Prentice Small (11) and freshman Gabe Knutson (10), hit for double figures as Lehigh improves to 18-10 overall and 9-4 in the league. Bucknell received 14 points from freshman standout Mike Muscala as the Bison fall to 13-16 overall and 8-5 in the P.L.
“First and foremost I thought we dictated things tonight with our defensive pressure,” Lehigh head coach Brett Reed explained. “Bucknell is an excellent basketball team that was on a roll coming into tonight and so we knew that in order to be successful we had to get them out of their comfort zone and continually pressure the basketball.”
Reed then spoke of the defensive trapping the Mountain Hawks instituted in the second half. “That was something we worked on earlier this week. Bucknell likes to run a lot of ball screens and so we wanted to bring pressure and see if we could force a few turnovers. I thought our bench play was outstanding tonight. It started with John Adams coming in and playing with a high level of energy and then Prentice Small really played an excellent game for us. He was able to use his outstanding speed and quickness and strength as well to disrupt Bucknell defensively. That is what our bench needs to do if we are going to be competing for a championship. They need to play with a lot of emotion, a lot of energy and really make a difference when they get into the game.”
Lehigh canned 51.9% of its shots on the night, including a staggering 60% in the opening half. The Brown and White sank 7-of-15 shots from downtown, including a four-of-seven showing from McCollum. In all, the Ohio native sank 8-of-16 shots, grabbed six rebounds and handed out four assists. The freshman sensation has scored 25 or more points seven times this season, which is the most by a freshman in school annals.
McCollum spoke of setting the all-time Patriot League scoring mark in his first season wearing the Brown and White. “It feels great, but to be honest with you, if we had lost I wouldn’t care about the individual accolades. If I score zero points and we win, I’m happy; if I score 30 points and we win, I’m happy. I have terrific teammates who get me the ball in places where I can score and tonight we were hitting on all cylinders.”
The Mountain Hawks pulled down 33 rebounds on the night, led by McCollum’s six and Knutson’s five. Small’s 11 points were a season-high, as he led the Lehigh bench to a total of 29 points on the evening. Sophomore John Adams was also a big contributor off the bench for the Brown and White as he sank three-of-four shots, including two three-pointers, en route to eight points. McCollum and Small led the charge with four assists apiece and as a team Lehigh committed only 11 turnovers.
Joining Muscala in double digits was classmate Bryson Johnson with 10 points, while Bryan Cohen added nine. The Bison shot 39% from the floor, but only 32% in the second half and they turned the ball over 13 times which led to 18 Lehigh points. Muscala was the game’s leading rebounder with nine caroms and Darryl Shazier led the team with four helpers.
The game was intense from the opening tip with each team playing chest-to-chest defense and emotions running high. A Stephen Tyree bucket with 18:02 on the first half clock gave Bucknell an early 8-4 lead but five straight from Lehigh gave the Mountain Hawks a 9-8 advantage. Small got inside for a bucket at the 12:50 mark, which put the home team ahead 17-12, but G.W. Boon answered with a three for the Bison to make the score 17-15. With the score 19-17 in favor of Lehigh, the Mountain Hawks rattled off a 10-2 run capped by a Knutson basket which pushed Lehigh’s lead to 29-19 at the 7:11 mark.
Knutson’s lay-up with 5:36 to play again gave Lehigh a double-digit advantage, while McCollum’s steal and full court sprint towards a two-handed slam gave the Mountain Hawks a 36-26 lead with 1:27 to play. The eight-time Rookie of the Week added six more points in the final minute and Lehigh took a 42-27 lead into the locker room. McCollum finished with 11 points in the half as Lehigh shot a sizzling 60% from the field and 50% from downtown. Adams and Knutson added eight points apiece, while Marquis Hall scored seven. Four Mountain Hawks pulled down two rebounds apiece and McCollum and Knutson were the team leaders with two assists each.
Muscala sank five-of-six shots from the floor en route to ten first half points, while Johnson added six. Muscala also pulled down four rebounds and Shazier dished out three assists. The Mountain Hawks scored 16 points off of 11 Bison turnovers and Lehigh’s bench outscored its counterparts 14-5.
Lehigh picked up right where it left off in the second half as McCollum drilled a three, got fouled, and sank the ensuing foul shot on the Mountain Hawks first possession to push Lehigh’s lead to 19. Bucknell scored four straight to cut it to 15 points, but another steal and coast-to-coast drive followed by an emphatic slam by McCollum brought the Stabler Arena crowd to its feet and gave Lehigh a 19-point cushion.
The lead swelled to 20 on Small’s three-point play with 13 minutes to go, while McCollum’s three-pointer with 8:29 on the clock gave the Brown and White a 22-point advantage. Lehigh’s biggest lead of the night was 27, which came on two occasions, the last coming with 1:55 to play when sophomore Jordan Hamilton got inside for a dunk.
Lehigh returns to action on Saturday evening when the Mountain Hawks play host to the Holy Cross Crusaders with a chance to win the 2010 league title outright and clinch the top seed throughout the upcoming Patriot League Tournament. Tip-off is set for 7:30 and tickets may be purchased in one of three ways: by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by logging onto Lehighsports.com or at the arena box office prior to tip-off.
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