Posted: March 19, 2010
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Lehigh saw its 2009-10 season come to an end on Thursday evening but not before the Mountain Hawks gave No. 1 Kansas all it could handle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Ford Center. Lehigh trailed the number-one overall seed Jayhawks by only six points with 13 minutes to play, but KU eventually outlasted the Brown and White and came away with a 90-74 victory. C.J. McCollum showed America why he is the nation’s number-one scoring freshman as he scored a game-high 26 points, while seniors Zahir Carrington (17) and Marquis Hall (10) closed out their careers with double-digit performances. With the loss Lehigh’s season comes to an end at 22-11, while the Jayhawks improve to 33-2 and advance to the second round of the Big Dance.
Lehigh head coach Brett Reed offered his thoughts on Thursday’s game. “The game tonight was going to require an absolutely champion effort in order to dethrone Kansas. I’m proud of the hustle and determination, and I’m proud of our fight. Unfortunately, we came through on the wrong side and didn’t quite have enough, didn’t have enough miracle plays in order to pull off a tremendous upset, but nonetheless we will not hang our heads. We will move forward with pride. I felt we represented Lehigh University and the Patriot League with a great deal of class.”
Kansas head coach Bill Self was also impressed with the effort put forth by the Mountain Hawks in the game. “We’re happy we won. I don’t think we played great. I think Lehigh played very, very well. I think we played tight early and the lid came off the basket. I thought Lehigh played very hard and they got a terrific player, and fortunately Tyrell Reed and Marcus Morris stepped up and had really big games for us offensively.”
Lehigh shot 45% in the second half and 40% overall for the game. McCollum sank 10-of-13 free throws as the Mountain Hawks took 21 foul shots, compared to just ten by the Jayhawks. McCollum was also the team leader in rebounds with seven, while Carrington and freshman Gabe Knutson pulled down six apiece. Hall, who sank two three-pointers, dished out a team-high five assists and also recorded a pair of steals. The Mountain Hawks outscored their counterpart 18-13 on second chance points and sank seven three-pointers on the evening. Going up against a tough, Kansas defense all night long Lehigh took good care of the ball as well, committing only 13 turnovers versus the Big 12 school.
Marcus Morris tied McCollum for game-high scoring honors with 26 points, which came on 12-of-15 shooting. The Jayhawks shot 55% from the field for the game, including a blistering 65% in the final 20 minutes. Five Kansas players scored in double figures, including Morris, Sherron Collins (18), Tyrell Reed (12), and Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry with 11 apiece. Morris also pulled down ten boards for a double-double, while Collins hit two shots from downtown and handed out a game-high six assists. Aldrich used his tremendous size to block a game-high five shots and as a team KU outscored Lehigh 52-18 in the paint.
Knutson scored the game’s first points with 19:07 on the first half clock but it would be nearly three minutes later before Kansas scored its first points of the evening, a bucket by Morris. From there the Mountain Hawks scored ten of the next 12 points, capped by a Carrington jumper at the 14:04 mark as Lehigh took a 12-4 lead. Kansas ripped off a 21-2 run however over the next seven minutes to surge in front 25-14 but Lehigh never got rattled and Hall calmly sank a three and junior Rob Keefer splashed a smooth jumper from the baseline to bring the Mountain Hawks within six with 5:11 to play before the half.
Four straight by Carrington brought Lehigh within a single basket with 3:47 to play and as the teams retired to their benches for the under-four media timeout, the Lehigh faithful rose as one in the stands. McCollum’s basket with 2:50 to go in the half made it just a one-point game but Kansas scored nine of the final 13 points to take a 35-29 lead into the locker room.
The fact that Lehigh trailed by only six at halftime was even more surprising considering the Mountain Hawks shot just 36% in the opening 20 minutes. Carrington carried the Brown and White with 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while McCollum added six tallies but the Ohio native was harassed into a two-of-ten showing. Lehigh hit on only 1-of-9 three-pointers but more than held its own on the glass, pulling down 20 rebounds to the bigger, more powerful Jayhawks’ 23. Carrington ripped down five of those rebounds, while McCollum totaled four. Hall handed out a team high three assists and Lehigh committed only seven turnovers.
Kansas shot 44% from the field, but only 27% from downtown in the half. Marcus Morris led the Jayhawks with 12 points on five-of-eight shooting and Collins added 11 and four rebounds. Marcus Morris and Aldrich were the team leaders in rebounds with five each, while Aldrich swatted a game-high three shots. Taylor dished out three assists for KU and the top-seed in the tournament converted Lehigh’s seven TOs into 14 points.
As the second got underway Lehigh continued to hang around, closing to within five on Dave Buchberger’s three at the 19:02 mark. Kansas went up by 11 on a Henry dunk with 14:33 to play, but Lehigh came back with the next five points to make it a 50-44 game with 13:15 to play. Another Buchberger three, this one coming with 10:32 remaining brought Lehigh within single digits once again, but over the next three minutes Kansas extended its lead to 17 points.
With Lehigh trailing 85-66 with under four to go, the Mountain Hawks scored six straight, including a three by Buchberger and an old fashioned three-point play by Carrington which brought the Brown and White within 13, 85-72. That was as close as Lehigh would get however and both coaches emptied their benches in the final minute of play.
Asked about never giving up and giving the number-one ranked team a tough game, Hall responded, “I think it was just our team attitude in general. You know, when we were coming back, basketball is a game of runs, and they were making their runs and we were coming to the huddle during the media segment or a timeout. We would say now it’s time to make our run. It’s the attitude of our team to never give up. We play the full 40 minutes, no matter what happens.”
Lehigh’s 2009-10 season will go down as one of the most successful in school history. The Mountain Hawks won a school record 22 games, captured their first outright Patriot League regular season championship in school annals and won their second P.L. tournament title ever. Lehigh’s senior class of Carrington, Hall, Buchberger and Matt Shamis leave Lehigh with 63 victories, having won more games than the previous season in each of their years in the Brown and White.
“I’d like to give credit to our seniors who made a terrific run throughout the entire course of the season,” Reed said. “They did a wonderful job of representing our program, doing so with class, molding and forming a team into a family and then obviously with a number of other student-athletes within our program that represented us with class as well as with character, and gave us a wonderful year and certainly one to be proud of.”
Lehigh - Kansas Post-Game Extra
Photography 2010, (c) J.P. Wilson