BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Despite jumping out to an 11-0 lead only minutes into the game, the Lehigh men’s basketball team fell victim to a relentless Fordham rally as the Rams came back to top the Mountain Hawks (4-4) by a 74-67 final on Saturday evening. The loss snaps Lehigh’s nine-game home winning streak dating back to last season.
The Mountain Hawks struggled in shooting only 26 percent in the second half, including a stretch of 13:04 when they converted only one field goal.
"I really believe that our ineptitude offensively was the story of the game," said head coach Brett Reed. "We had fairly easy opportunities, but were unable to convert. We had many types of shots – driving layups, short jumper, three-pointer – but were unable to finish. Our aggressiveness to get to the free throw line became our only opportunity to score points."
Lehigh, who shot a season-low 33 percent (22-for-66) for the game, was led by sophomore Gabe Knutson with a game-high 20 points, his third straight game with 18 or more points. He also hit 14-of-15 free throws. Sophomore C.J. McCollum struggled through a poor shooting night, but did finish with 12 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth-career double-double and third in his first four home games. Senior Michael Ojo also added 16, including 3-of-5 from three-point range.
"We were able to get the ball inside," said Reed. "Gabe didn’t convert everything, but did get to the free throw line [which kept us in the game]."
The Mountain Hawks came out of the gate flying, taking an 11-0 lead only 2:43 into the game. The Rams started to inch back, scoring 15 of the next 20 points to cut Lehigh’s lead to 16-15 with 12:12 still left in the first half.
Lehigh regained a five-point lead (22-17) with 9:32 to go, but Fordham staged a 6-0 run to take its first lead of the game with 6:54 on the clock.
"I felt like we got a little complacent and eased up a bit during their run in the first half," said Reed. "Because of that, I think we came off less aggressively than I would have liked."
Knutson and McCollum helped put the Mountain Hawks back on top, as they combined for seven of their next 11 points to regain a 33-29 advantage with 2:09 to go until halftime.
Fordham quickly turned a one-point deficit into a one-point lead and wouldn’t look back. The Rams continued the relentless pressure, opening up their first double-digit advantage (48-38) with 14:19 still to go in the second half.
The lead continued to grow to as much as 14 (58-44) with 8:41 on the clock, but the Mountain Hawks continued to fight back, scoring 15 of the next 23 points capped off by a three-pointer from senior Rob Keefer to pull within 66-59 with 2:54 still to go.
Lehigh couldn’t pull any closer, however, as Fordham hit its free throws down the stretch to ice the win.
For the game, the Mountain Hawks shot only 33 percent (22-for-66) and 31 percent (5-for-16) from three-point range, while Fordham finished at 46 percent (24-for-52) and 42 percent (5-for-12) from long range. The Rams won the rebounding battle, 45-38, led by 20 from Chris Gaston.
Lehigh hits the road for two games next week, at Quinnipiac on Tuesday and at Marist on Friday before returning to Stabler Arena to host Saint Francis (Pa.) on Dec. 13 in its final game in 10 days. 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.