NEWARK, N.J. – Despite struggling to sustain much offense, the Lehigh women’s basketball team scored 13 of the game’s final 18 points over the final 6:28 to break a 40-40 tie on its way to a 53-45 win over NJIT on Thursday evening. Senior Courtney Dentler led the way with 13 points and nine rebounds while fellow senior Erica Prosser also chipped in with 13 to go along with five assists.
"They’re a tough team," said head coach Sue Troyan. "Their record is deceiving; they’ve played with a lot of good teams [this year] and play with a lot of passion."
A struggle from the start, the teams combined for 41 turnovers - 25 from NJIT - while Lehigh shot 32 percent from the field to 34 percent for the Highlanders.
Freshman Hilary Weaver followed up a career-high scoring performance at Saint Peter’s with seven points while junior Emily Gratch added seven as well.
The Mountain Hawks did hit 89 percent (16-of-18) of their free throws, which proved crucial in pulling away down the stretch.
"We needed anything we could get from the charity stripe, especially the way we were shooting from the field," said Troyan.
Lehigh struggled off the bat, falling into a 4-0 hole before scoring its first points on a Prosser driving layup, to pull within 4-2 with 17:00 minutes to go in the first half. After the Mountain Hawks tied the score, NJIT used a 6-0 run to take a 10-4 advantage with 14:10 on the clock.
Down 14-10, Lehigh used a 10-0 run over the next 4:13 to open up a 20-14 lead. Dentler scored her first points of the evening via an open three at the top of the key to pull within 14-13, while Prosser hit a pair of free throws to give Lehigh its first lead of the game, 15-14 with 7:32 to go. A Weaver three-pointer and Dentler layup later, the Mountain Hawks owned their largest lead of the half.
NJIT fought back with an 8-2 run to even the score at 22, but Lehigh responded with five straight points behind a Gratch three-point play and two more Prosser free throws, to make it 27-22. However, a Melanie Griffin three-pointer as time was winding down in the half, pulled NJIT within 27-25 heading into the locker room.
The second half began similarly with only six total points scored in the first 6:13, four by the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh scored two straight baskets when Gratch hit a short hook shot with 12:45 to go, then sophomore Becky Guman converted a Gratch steal into an uncontested layup to make it 35-30 with 12:01 remaining.
The Mountain Hawks opened up their largest lead at 37-30 off a pretty backdoor pass and layup from junior Aly Byorick with 10:32 remaining, but the Highlanders answered with six of the next eight points to pull within 39-36.
NJIT evened the score at 40 behind a jumper from Rayven Johnson that rolled in with 6:28 to go, but Lehigh regained a 45-41 advantage with 4:24 to go behind a Byorick three-pointer and Dentler layup.
Dentler took over with six straight points behind two free throws and a pair of field goals to help Lehigh regain a 49-43 advantage with 2:32 on the clock. Weaver and senior Alexa Williams went onto hit four consecutive free throws down the stretch to clinch the 53-45 victory.
"Courtney has had a tremendous senior year," said Troyan. "She’s played a great leadership role. She does whatever we ask of her, [which includes] taking charges and scoring points."
Lehigh shot 32 percent (17-for-53) from the field, 25 percent (3-for-12) from three-point range, while NJIT came in at 34 percent (19-for-56) and 13 percent (2-for-15) from long range. The Highlanders won the battle of the boards, 40-32.
The Mountain Hawks wrap up their pre-holiday schedule on Saturday (Dec. 11) against Wagner inside Stabler Arena. They return to action on Dec. 29 as they host the Christmas City Classic. 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.