Posted: March 7, 2010
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh raced out to an 11-0 lead on American on Sunday evening and never looked back as the Mountain Hawks downed the Eagles 79-57 at Stabler Arena to advance to the Patriot League championship game for the first time since 2004. The win is Lehigh’s 21st of the season, which ties a school record and the Mountain Hawks have now won a school record 14 games inside of Stabler Arena this season. Freshman C.J. McCollum led four Lehigh players in double figures with 22 points, while senior captain Dave Buchberger tied his season high with 16 points. Stephen Lumpkins led the visitors with 15 points and nine rebounds as the Eagles see their season come to an end at 11-20.
The Mountain Hawks shot 47% on the night, including a scorching 61% from beyond the three-point arc. Senior Zahir Carrington posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while classmate Marquis Hall scored 11 points and handed out six assists. Lehigh sank 21-of-26 free throw attempts and scored 26 points off of 16 American turnovers. The Mountain Hawks also registered a season-best 12 steals and committed only ten turnovers.
American shot 40% from the field and placed three players in double figures with Steve Luptak (14) and Nick Hendra (11) joining Lumpkins. The Eagles pulled down 34 rebounds with Lumpkins totaling nine and Vlad Moldoveanu and Matthew Wilson recorded six apiece. Simon McCormack led AU with four assists and the visitors received 21 points from its bench.
“We came out with incredible attention and focus, particularly on defense and we were also able to channel our energy and hit some shots on the offensive end,” Mountain Hawks head coach Brett Reed said afterwards. “It was terrific to get off to as good a start as we did and I thought our defensive intensity helped carry us through the rest of the game. Our guys were very excited to play this game and it showed right from the start.”
Buchberger gave his thoughts on Lehigh’s performance. “We were all really looking forward to playing this game tonight. Our senior class wanted to leave a winning legacy at Lehigh and we’ve fallen well short of that our first three seasons, but now we have an opportunity to do something special.”
Buchberger then spoke of holding American star forward Vlad Moldoveanu to just two points. “I tried to deny him the ball. Being so much shorter than him I knew I could not let him catch the ball where he was comfortable so I tried to deny him every time down the floor.” Reed added his thoughts. “Dave has an incredible ability to absorb a large amount of information and can nearly recite our entire scouting reports verbatim so he understands what our opponent’s are trying to do. He also has a knack for reading angles and so he used all of that to help him in defending a terrific player tonight.”
Lehigh came out riding a wave of emotion and raced out to an 11-0 lead capped by two free throws by McCollum. American scored ten of the next 12 points however to make it a 13-10 game with 13:04 remaining in the half. The next several minutes of play weren’t the prettiest but Lehigh did manage to open an eight point lead on a three from Ojo at the 9:21 mark but a three-point play by Lumpkins down the other end cut the Mountain Hawks’ lead to five.
Following a lay-up by Hall and a three-pointer from Buchberger, Lehigh was in front 28-16 with 4:30 on the clock. Moldoveanu’s jumper with 3:49 to play made it a ten-point game, but from there the Mountain Hawks reeled off an 11-3 run which included a steal and coast-to-coast lay-up by Hall and an emphatic one-hand slam by Ojo that was set up by a beautiful feed from Hall and brought the Lehigh crowd to its feet. The Mountain Hawks tapped on two more points and took a commanding 39-21 lead into the locker room.
Lehigh connected on 50% of its attempts in the half, including a 4-of-4 showing from three-point range. McCollum scored 11 points on four-of-eight shooting, while Buchberger added eight and Ojo scored six. The Mountain Hawks out-rebounded the Eagles 19-15 led by Carrington and McCollum with four each. Knutson and McCollum dished out two assists each and Lehigh scored 14 points off nine Eagles turnovers.
American struggled through the first half hitting on only 33% from the floor, including 3-of-8 from downtown. Hendra scored 11 points, including three three-pointers and Steve Luptak led the Eagles with two assists. Despite taking only two shots, Moldoveanu did manage to lead the visitors with six boards, while Lumpkins pulled down four.
In the second half Lehigh refused to let up extending to a 23-point lead on Buchberger’s three-pointer at the 17:14 mark. A Carrington jumper with 16:23 to play again gave the Mountain Hawks a 23-point advantage, while McCollum’s three-pointer with 13:25 to play gave the Brown and White a 53-30 advantage.
American never got any closer than 16 the rest of the way and Lehigh’s lead ballooned to as many as 24, which came on yet another Buchberger three with 7:18 on the clock. Nearly every Lehigh player saw time on Sunday evening, including freshman Ryan Peters who sank a pair of foul shots down the stretch for his first collegiate points.
Lehigh now moves onto the Patriot League championship game where the top-seeded Mountain Hawks will host the No. 3 seed and archrival Lafayette Leopards on Friday, March 12. Friday’s game will take place inside Stabler Arena with tip-off slated for 4:45. Tickets can be purchased by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by logging onto Lehighsports.com or at the arena box office prior to tip-off.
Tickets are $16 for adults and $8 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 be asked 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.
Lehigh Mountain Hawks Post-Game Extra
Photography 2010 (c), Specialty Photographic