Posted: February 27, 2010
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Behind a torrid shooting performance Lehigh earned its first outright Patriot League championship in school history with a 91-80 victory over Holy Cross on Saturday evening at Stabler Arena on Senior Night. The Mountain Hawks buried a Stabler Arena record 15 three-pointers and shot 54% from the field in winning their first league title since 2004 and the first outright title in school annals. Freshman C.J. McCollum knocked down five three-pointers en route to a game-high 28 points, while senior captain Marquis Hall drained six three-pointers and scored a season best 25 points to go along with a career-high 12 assists. With the win Lehigh improves to 19-10 overall and 10-4 in the league. The 19 wins are tied for the third most in school history. Holy Cross falls to 8-21 and 5-9 in league action following the setback.
Mountain Hawks head coach Brett Reed gave his thoughts on the game. “We’ve been much more proficient on offense this year and that’s had a big impact on our overall results. We used to try and grind it out with tough defense and make timely buckets and see what happened. This year we have a number of guys who can step up and make shots and I’m just happy to walk away with a regular season Patriot League championship.”
He then commented on Lehigh’s senior class. “Those four young men are highly respected by everyone in this program. They’ve done all of the right things on the court and off the court for four years; they’ve worked extremely hard, came to practice early, stayed late, achieved in the classroom, been terrific role models in the community and I’m just very, very happy that they were rewarded for all of their efforts.”
In front of a boisterous crowd that included one of the largest student contingents of the season Lehigh shot a blistering 53.6% from the field and 55.6% from three-point range. The Mountain Hawks handed out a season best 26 assists on 30 field goals and out-rebounded the physical Crusaders 34-26. Senior Zahir Carrington led the way on the glass with nine boards, while McCollum totaled five. Hall dished out 12 helpers on the evening, giving him seven games of double digit assists this season and he raised his season total to 165 which breaks the single season record of 160 set by Mike McKee during the 1993-94 season.
Joining McCollum and Hall in double figures for Lehigh was senior captain Dave Buchberger, who sank two three-pointers en route to a season-best 16 points. Lehigh’s 91 points as a team tied a season-high and the Mountain Hawks 57 second half points were the most they scored in a half this entire season.
“It feels good to be up there by ourselves; that was one of the goals we set for this team at the very beginning of the season,” Hall commented afterwards. “We accomplished one of our goals and now we need to take it one step at a time. This was a tremendous team effort tonight and it feels great to come out with the win.”
Hall then commented on Lehigh’s prolific offensive showing. “That’s a tribute to our team. We have a lot of guys who can score the basketball. C.J. fills it up; he’s a great player and can really play.”
Holy Cross put on quite a shooting exhibition as well as the Crusaders shot 49.2% from the field and 50% from three-point range. Andrew Beinert led the way with 21 points, while Mike Cavataio scored 17, Andrew Keister scored 14 and R.J. Evans netted 13. Keister also pulled down eight rebounds, while Evans was the team leader with five assists. Holy Cross sank 14-of-17 shots at the free throw line and outscored Lehigh 36-22 in the paint.
Fittingly on Senior Night Buchberger scored Lehigh’s first basket, but not until over two minutes had gone by. McCollum hit his first shot of the night, a three-pointer, with 16:31 on the first half clock, which put the Mountain Hawks on top 5-4. Another Lehigh three, this one from senior captain Matt Shamis at the 15:56 mark put the Brown and White ahead 8-6, while a Carrington jumper in the paint with 15:18 to play gave the Mountain Hawks a 10-6 advantage.
McCollum’s jumper with 13:25 on the clock pushed Lehigh’s lead to 14-8, while Buchberger’s three at the 12:31 mark gave Lehigh a 17-11 advantage. The Mountain Hawks led by seven with 11:19 to play but Holy Cross scored nine straight points capped by a Goens three-pointer with 7:46 remaining that gave the visitors a 23-21 lead. McCollum didn’t let it last long however, as he sank a jumper off a feed from Hall and the teams were knotted at 23. Goens then came down and hit his second three, this one with 6:01 on the clock, to give the Crusaders a 26-23 advantage.
Baskets by McCollum, Knutson and Hall gave the lead back to Lehigh with 3:48 on the clock but Holy Cross refused to go away and following Cavataio’s lay-up with 1:10 to play the visitors were within one at 34-33. The game remained that way as the teams headed into the locker room.
McCollum sank five-of-eight shots in the first half en route to 11 points as Lehigh shot 53.8% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. Buchberger added seven while Hall scored five. Carrington grabbed six of the Mountain Hawks’ 19 rebounds and Hall dished out six assists. Lehigh did turn the ball over nine times and Holy Cross scored 11 points off of those TOs.
Beinert and Goens led the Crusaders with eight points each in the half as Holy Cross shot 48.3% from the floor and 83.3% from three-point range, but did not attempt a free throw. Keister pulled down a team-high three rebounds, while Evans handed out three assists. Holy Cross took good care of the ball, committing only five turnovers and the Crusaders outscored Lehigh 14-12 in the paint.
The second half was wildly entertaining with both teams going back and forth and plenty of long range shooting on display. Lehigh opened up an eight-point advantage on McCollum’s three-pointer with 12:12 to play but Beinert came right back and drilled a three of his own to cut the Mountain Hawks’ lead to five. Junior Michael Ojo then came down and hit a three of his own but Beinert responded once again with another trifecta.
McCollum’s three at the 9:34 mark gave Lehigh a seven-point cushion, but Holy Cross scored four straight and was within three with 9:11 on the clock. Back-to-back baskets by Cavataio cut Lehigh’s lead to just two with 5:09 to play, but Carrington got inside for a lay-up on the other end and the Mountain Hawks went up by four. Hall’s three-pointer with 3:13 to play pushed the Brown and White’s lead to seven and in the final three minutes, Lehigh went a perfect 10-of-10 at the foul line to clinch the victory. The win gives Lehigh its first season sweep of Holy Cross since the 1997-98 season.
With at least one more game at Stabler Arena the Mountain Hawks have a chance to tie the school record for the most wins at the STAR with a win in the quarterfinal round of the Patriot League Tournament. The 2003-04 squad won 13 games at Stabler Arena and this year’s edition now has 12.
Lehigh will begin postseason play on Wednesday, March 3 when the top-seeded Mountain Hawks play host to the No. 8 Army Black Knights at Stabler Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:00 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. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for seniors and students with a valid student ID.
Lehigh students and faculty/staff must purchase tickets to the game because it is a postseason event. All ID card holders of any kind will need to purchase a ticket to the game. Season ticket holders are guaranteed their regular season seats and should purchase by phone or by visiting Grace Hall.
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