BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Behind stellar all-around shooting, the American Eagles downed the Lehigh women's basketball team, 64-51, in the Patriot League opener at Stabler Arena on Saturday. American shot 46.9 percent from the field for the game, and were led by Liz Leer’s 25 points.
"It is one game, but it’s a home game though," said head coach Sue Troyan. "That hurts in this league. To get the number one seed, you need to protect your home court. You always get the best of your opponent in league play. American really came after us and dictated the play, offensively and defensively."
The story in the early going was Leer, who shot 4-of-5 in the first half, which included 2-of-3 from three-point range. Despite shooting 37.5 percent from the field in the first half, Lehigh struggled to hit shots in the second half, shooting just 21.4 percent and 28.6 percent for the game.
"We struggled the whole game to get any type of flow," said Troyan. "Credit them defensively. We struggled to get any rhythm going on the offensive end."
Senior Erica Prosser led the way for the Mountain Hawks, scoring 10 points and dishing out seven assists. Senior Courtney Dentler added 11 points and six rebounds, while senior Kristen Dalton had 10 points and six rebounds.
After American got out to a 5-0 lead, Lehigh then staged an 8-2 run capped off when Prosser sank a three-pointer to put the Mountain Hawks in front, 8-7, with 16:16 remaining in the half. Lehigh then extended its lead to 16-12 when Dalton hit a jumper with 10:44 remaining as both teams headed into the media timeout.
The game went back and forth for the remainder of the half, as the score was tied five times and the lead changed seven times. Both teams headed into halftime with the score knotted up at 32.
American really took over in the second half, shooting 50 percent from the field, including 3-of-5 from behind the three point arch. After Gratch opened the half with a layup, the Eagles scored eight straight points to take a 40-34 lead with 17:48 remaining, forcing a Lehigh timeout.
The Mountain Hawks would crawl back, as another layup by Gratch trimmed down the American lead to 45-44 with 10:57 remaining in the game. However, the Eagles put together a 10-0 run that gave them a 55-44 lead with 5:41 to go.
Gratch hit a layup with 3:57 remaining and Dentler followed with a three-pointer with 3:22 to go, to trim American’s lead down to six, as the Mountain Hawks still had hope. However, the story of runs continued for American, as it went on a 9-0 run to get a 64-49 advantage with 42 seconds remaining. Two free throws by Prosser made the final score 64-51.
American dominated the boards, holding a 43-33 advantage in rebounding. The Mountain Hawks led the way with points in the paint, 14-10. American scored 17 points off turnovers, while Lehigh scored 11.
The Mountain Hawks return to action on Jan. 12 as they travel to Annapolis, Md. to take on the Navy Midshipmen. Tip time is set for 7 p.m. Lehigh will then make the trip on Jan. 16 to West Point, N.Y. to face Army. The Mountain Hawks return home on Jan. 19 and will play host to Colgate. Tickets now on sale and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.