Posted: January 26, 2007
WORCESTER, Mass. – Lehigh hung tough all evening with first place Holy Cross, but in the end, could never get any closer than three points as the Mountain Hawks fell to the Crusaders 64-53 on Friday evening at the Hart Center. Senior Jose Olivero led the Brown and White with 18 points, while freshman Marquis Hall added 11. With the loss, Lehigh falls to 9-14 overall and 4-3 in league play. Senior Torey Thomas led the Crusaders with 18 points as they improve to 16-6 overall and 7-0 in Patriot League action.
“I was very pleased with our effort here tonight,” said head coach Billy Taylor afterwards. “We had a few moments in each half where we committed too many turnovers and our offense became stagnant, but overall we ran our sets and played tremendous defense, so I am happy with how we played.” He added, “Holy Cross is a great team, they are physical and they play hard, but I think our kids showed that they can play with anyone in any building and that’s encouraging.”
Lehigh out rebounded the physical Crusaders 38-34, led by junior Bryan White’s eight, while Hall pulled down seven. Hall handed out three assists on a night that Lehigh committed 20 turnovers, but also forced the home team into 37 percent shooting. Lehigh shot 35 percent as a team, but a 77 percent showing from the free throw line kept the Mountain Hawks in it.
Holy Cross struggled from the free throw line early, but sank 10 of 12 in the second half, to help seal the win. Senior Keith Simmons added 16 points for the Crusaders, while classmate Tim Clifford chipped in with 12.
Unlike past visits to the Hart Center, Lehigh got off to a solid start and trailed by just six points at the half, 32-26. After Lehigh jumped out to a quick 6-0 starts, Holy Cross registered a number of steals, which led to a 13-point bulge by the home team with 2:55 remaining in the half. After a number of fouls on Holy Cross however, Lehigh was able to chip away at the deficit from the free throw line, to go with a three-pointer by Olivero, which brought the Mountain Hawks to within six heading into the break
Olivero led the Brown and White with eight points, which included a pair of three-pointers, while Hall and classmate Zahir Carrington added five apiece. The Mountain Hawks shot just 37 percent from the field, but forced the Crusaders into 37 percent shooting as well. Both teams grabbed 17 rebounds, with White pulling down a team-high seven for the Brown and White.
Thomas scored ten points for the Crusaders including the 1,000th of his career, and he added three assists. Clifford netted six points in the half, and grabbed five rebounds, as the Crusaders turned the ball over just seven times, compared to Lehigh’s 15.
A lay up by senior Kyle Neptune pulled Lehigh to within four at the 18:37 mark, but the Crusaders answered with a three by Simmons to go up by seven. Lehigh got back to within four on another lay up by Hall, this one with 13:33 to go, but seven quick points by the Crusaders put the home team back in front 46-35 with 12:06 to go. Lehigh refused to go away, and received contributions from everyone on the floor, including sophomore Matt Szalachowski, who swished a three with 8:25 to go, to again make it a six-point game. Following a pair of free throws and a breakaway lay up by Olivero, Lehigh was to within three with 5:44 remaining.
Simmons answered with a bucket of his own, but Hall came right back and scored to make it the score 54-51 with 4:04 left. That was as close as Lehigh would get however, as Lehigh went cold in the final minutes from the floor, falling to the Crusaders.
Lehigh now has the week off before returning to action on Saturday, February 3 when the second half of Patriot League play begins in Washington, D.C. The Mountain Hawks look for their fourth straight victory at Bender Arena versus the American Eagles, beginning at 7:30. All of the action will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM as well as on lehighsports.com.