VILLANOVA, Pa. – The Lehigh women’s basketball team erased a 12-point first half deficit to force overtime, but Villanova’s three-point shooting proved too much as the Mountain Hawks (1-3) dropped a heartbreaking 69-68 final on Tuesday evening at The Pavilion. Senior Erica Prosser had a chance at the end of regulation and overtime to send Lehigh home winners, but her shots were barely off the mark to give the Wildcats their fourth win of the season.
"We had our chances," said head coach Sue Troyan. "We hung in there after getting down early and made plays to give us a chance. I’m proud of the team’s effort coming back after Sunday."
Junior Emily Gratch tied a career-high with 22 point on 8-of-14 shooting, while Prosser added 19, including a stretch of 4:39 bridging the end of the first half and beginning of the second in which she scored 11 points.
The overtime game was Lehigh’s first since last Jan. 9 at American. That game ended with a similar final, 69-65, in favor of the Eagles.
Villanova took a 12 point first-half lead and seven point advantage at the break, but the Mountain Hawks continued to fight back, holding as much as a four point advantage (59-55) with 3:04 left in regulation. The Wildcats clawed back, though to force overtime, where hot three-point shooting propelled them to another big lead before Lehigh again made a run to have a chance at the buzzer.
Lehigh jumped out to the quick start, taking a 15-8 lead with 12:20 to go in the first half behind the inside play of Gratch and senior Courtney Dentler, who combined for 12 of Lehigh’s first 15 points and 16 of the team’s 25 at the break. The Mountain Hawks were trailing 6-4, when they staged an 11-2 run capped off by Gratch’s fifth and sixth points to open up their largest lead of the game.
The Mountain Hawks’ offense hit a rough stretch, allowing the Wildcats to go on a 14-0 run over the next 6:49 for a 22-15 advantage with 7:06 left on the clock. Lehigh finally broke its scoreless drought behind a Dentler layup with 5:31 on the clock.
Villanova extended its lead to 29-17, Prosser scored six points in the final 43 seconds to pull Lehigh back to within seven at the break. She was first fouled on a layup where she completed the three-point play. Prosser then hit the Mountain Hawks’ first three-pointer of the night with time winding down.
Prosser continued her hot play into the second half, as her three-point play with 16:35 to go pulled Lehigh within 38-33, but the Wildcats responded with seven of the game’s next 10 points to take a 45-35 lead with 13:45 to go.
The Mountain Hawks answered with a vengeance, staging a 15-2 run of their own capped off by a three-pointer from senior Kristen Dalton to make 50-47 with 9:46 to go, forcing Villanova to call timeout.
Lehigh eventually opened up a four point advantage with just over three minutes remaining, but the Mountain Hawks wouldn’t add any distance, allowing Villanova to tie the score at 60 behind a Rachel Roberts layup with only 40 seconds on the clock.
After a Wildcats’ steal, Dentler took a huge charge before a shot got off, allowing Prosser a tough angle look at the basket, which rimmed out as time expired.
Villanova regained its lead in overtime, scoring nine of the first 10 points of the extra period for a 69-61 lead with 2:13 on the clock. The Mountain Hawks came roaring back, however, with seven straight points over the next 1:35 to pull within 69-68 with 39 seconds on the clock.
With only 13 seconds left, Lehigh forced a miss from Roberts and with no timeouts left, Prosser had two looks, highlighted by a second chance off a rebound. But it wouldn’t fall, giving Villanova the slim victory.
The Mountain Hawks shot 42 percent (26-for-61) for the game, while Villanova came in at 38 percent (23-for-60). Lehigh shot only 26 percent (5-for-19) from three-point range, while the Wildcats took 36 and sinking 12 for a 33 percent clip. The Mountain Hawks won the battle of the boards, 42-33.
Lehigh continues its busiest stretch of the season, playing three more games in the next five days. The Mountain Hawks head to UConn for the World Vision Challenge, hosted by the Huskies. There, they will face LSU, No. 1 UConn and Howard on consecutive days. Lehigh’s next home game is Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 12 p.m. against Saint Joseph’s. Tickets for all home games are now on sale and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.