HAMILTON, N.Y. – In almost a mirror image of its last game against Army, the Lehigh men’s basketball team opened a 12-point second-half advantage, but a relentless Colgate squad continued to chip away at the lead before overtaking the Mountain Hawks (10-9, 1-3 Patriot League) in the final seconds, 80-79. Sophomore C.J. McCollum hit a go-ahead bank shot with 15 seconds remaining, but Colgate’s Mitch Rolls hit the game-winning shot with eight seconds on the clock.
“It’s really unfortunate we weren’t able to pull it out,” said head coach Brett Reed. “We played with a tremendous energy and focus for a great deal of the second half. Colgate came back strong, while missed free throws really hurt us [as well].
“At the end of the day, we need to become a much better defensive team,” he continued. “When we were playing well, we were getting stops and feeding off the energy.”
Lehigh used a balanced offensive attack as four Mountain Hawks finished in double figures, led by McCollum’s 24 points, marking his fourth straight 20+ point game. It came on an impressive 10-of-18 shooting.
Senior Michael Ojo added 13, including 10 in the second half, while sophomore Gabe Knutson finished with 12. Fellow sophomore Holden Greiner finished a rebound shy of his second-career double-double, posting 11 points and nine rebounds.
Freshman Mackey McKnight was strong as well, with eight points, three assists and three rebounds.
Down 78-77 with 37 seconds remaining, Greiner found a cutting McCollum who went in for the short bank shot off the glass for what looked to be the game-winning score, but Rolls answered on the other end with a long two-pointer with only eight seconds remaining. McCollum came the other way and let off one last shot in traffic looking to draw the foul, but nothing was called despite protests from the Lehigh sideline.
“I thought Colgate played very well tonight,” said Reed. “But we need to find a way [to win]. Ultimately, we weren’t able to tonight.”
Tied at 38 at the half, the Mountain Hawks used a second half surge, scoring 25 points in the first 7:40 to open a 12-point advantage. But Colgate took over from there, outscoring Lehigh, 29-16 over the final 12:20 to hand the Mountain Hawks the heartbreaking defeat.
Colgate took a 6-2 lead in the early going, but McKnight hit a three-pointer from the corner to even the score at six with 17:01 left in the first half. The Raiders responded with the next six points to open a 12-6 advantage with 15:23 to go.
Lehigh responded with a quick 6-0 run of its own, which included two more points from McKnight, to even the score at 12 with 14:26 remaining. McCollum began to heat up, scoring six points in the span of 1:06 to help the Mountain Hawks open up their first lead of the game, 17-15, with 12:54 remaining following an Ojo three-pointer.
Colgate responded, but the Mountain Hawks evened the score at 18 behind a David Safstrom free throw, while taking a 21-18 advantage behind a nifty three-point play from freshman Kevin McCarthy.
The Raiders scored the next six to open a 24-21 lead up, but Lehigh answered out of a timeout with an alley-oop from McKnight to McCollum, who finished the thunderous slam to pull the squad within 24-23 with 7:34 to go.
A Greiner second chance layup helped Lehigh regain a 27-26 lead. Then, Gabe Knutson took over with seven straight Mountain Hawks points in only 2:01, as the seventh – a made free throw – put Lehigh on top, 34-33, with 2:34 to go.
The teams traded baskets over the final minutes until Colgate went up 38-36, with less than a minute to play. McCollum answered with a runner with only seven seconds remaining to even the score at the half.
The Mountain Hawks came out of the locker room with a vengeance, scoring 15 points within the first 4:02 to open up as much as a seven-point lead. Knutson kept his hot hand going, scoring five points in the first 2:57.
McCollum finished a great drive with an emphatic slam to put Lehigh up, 46-41. A McKnight three-pointer gave Lehigh a 51-44 lead with 16:32 to go while an Ojo pull-up jumper helped the Mountain Hawks regain the seven-point advantage less than a minute later.
Lehigh opened its first double-digit lead of the game following a McCollum three-pointer to put the Mountain Hawks up, 58-47, with 14:17 remaining. The Raiders then pulled to single digits, but freshman Anthony D’Orazio made a steal at center court and went in all the way for the layup to make it 63-51 with 12:20 remaining, forcing Colgate to call timeout.
The Raiders responded out of the timeout by staging an 8-0 run capped off by a three-pointer from Mike Venezia, his second trey in just under three minutes. That pulled Colgate within 63-59 with 9:09 remaining in the second half.
Ojo ended the run and 5:12 scoreless drought with a big three-pointer to put Lehigh back up, 66-59 with 7:18 to go. Lehigh extended its lead to 73-65 with 4:52 remaining behind a McCollum three-pointer, but Colgate wouldn’t go away. The Raiders used a 10-2 run capped off by a Rolls three-pointer to give Raiders its first lead since the beginning of the first half, 77-76.
Lehigh shot 53 percent (30-of-57) from the field, 47 percent (7-of-15) from three-point range. Colgate finished at 48 percent (29-of-61) and 33 percent (6-of-18) from long range. The Raiders won the battle of the boards, 34-33.
The Mountain Hawks continue their two-game road swing at arch rival Lafayette on Saturday at 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 7 p.m. inside Stabler Arena. Tickets are on sale and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.