BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh men’s basketball sophomore C.J. McCollum scored his 1,000th career point in the first half, and went on to net a game-high 24, but it wasn’t enough as Army erased a 14-point second half-deficit to hand the Mountain Hawks (10-8, 1-2 PL) a heartbreaking 75-72 loss on Saturday evening. McCollum is the 29th player in Lehigh history to reach 1,000 points, while becoming the first active sophomore in the nation to reach that milestone.
"Individual accolades are always great, but I’m more about winning championships," said McCollum. "Getting to 1,000 is nice, but it doesn’t matter when you lose [at home]."
McCollum’s 1,000th point came in his 51st career game, as he becomes the second fastest player in Patriot League history to reach that mark. The only one quicker was Colgate’s Tucker Nealer, who did so in his 44th career contest during the 1993-94 season.
"C.J. is just a fantastically talented player," said head coach Brett Reed. "For him to elevate his status as a 1,000 point scorer as a sophomore is truly remarkable,"
McCollum started off slowly with only two points over the first 18:19, but exploded for 22 over the final 21:41. He already has eleven 20+ point games this season, and 28 in his career. McCollum finished 8-of-20 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free throw line, while also grabbing a game-high nine rebounds to fall only one shy of his eighth-career double-double.
Entering the game with 994 career points, he scored his sixth of the evening and 1,000th of his career via a short jumper with only 38 seconds remaining in the first half to give Lehigh a 36-32 advantage.
Sophomores Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner also impressed with 16 and seven points, respectively. Knutson finished 7-of-9 from the field while Greiner added seven, to go along with three rebounds, two assists and three blocks.
Lehigh struggled from three-point range, hitting only 1-of-13, while Army turned it up with 10 three-pointers in 25 attempts to help spearhead its comeback. In total, the Black Knights outscored the Mountain Hawks, 35-18, over the final 13:32.
"I thought we played 24 minutes of good basketball," said Reed. "The last 13 minutes, we allowed 35 points, which is too much. We weren’t able to make the necessary stops late in the game."
Up 36-35 at the half, Lehigh came out of the locker room with a vengeance, staging a quick 13-3 run to open its largest lead of the game at 52-38 with 13:49 on the clock. The teams traded baskets and with the Mountain Hawks leading, 54-40, Army came back in a big way.
The Black Knights quickly staged a 13-2 run to pull within 56-53 with 9:24 to go. The three-point shot was the story of the half, as a Julian Simmons trey pulled Army as close as it had been in nearly 10 minutes. Lehigh continued to battle back, however, to maintain its advantage, again opening it up to four, 66-62, with 5:09 remaining.
A three-pointer from Jeremy Hence gave Army a 67-66 lead with 3:03 remaining, its first lead since early in the first half. The Mountain Hawks continued to battle back, but couldn’t retake the lead. McCollum grabbed an offensive rebound and finished the follow, to pull Lehigh within 69-68 with 57 seconds remaining. He later hit a jumper with only 16 seconds to go, pulling Lehigh within 71-70.
The Black Knights hit their free throws on the other end, forcing McCollum to take a contested three-pointer at the buzzer, which rimmed out to give Army the victory.
The beginning of the first half was played tooth and nail, seeing two ties and five lead changes within the first nine minutes. Down 15-12 with 11:31 remaining, Lehigh went on to stage a 14-3 run over the next 6:15 to create some distance, 26-18. Army came right back to score 12 of the next 18 points to pull back within 32-30 with 1:28 on the clock, but two Knutson free throws and a McCollum jumper gave him his 1,000th point and ensured Lehigh take a lead into the locker room. Up by four with time winding down, Simmons hit a three-pointer with time expiring in the half to turn a four-point margin into only one.
Despite hitting only 1-of-13 three-pointers, Lehigh did shoot 45 percent (25-of-56) from the field, which included 56 percent (24-of-43) from inside the arc. Army finished 43 percent (25-of-58) from the field and 40 percent (10-of-25) from three-point range. The Black Knights won the battle of the boards, 37-33.
The Mountain Hawks hit the road for a pair of games next week, beginning at Colgate on Wednesday (7 p.m.) before heading to Lafayette on Saturday (1 p.m.). Listen live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 and on Lehighsports.com. The squad returns home on Jan. 26 when it hosts Bucknell at Stabler Arena. Tickets are now on sale and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.