BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Bucknell jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead, which proved too much for the Lehigh men’s basketball team to overcome as the Mountain Hawks (11-10, 2-4 Patriot League) fell, 81-68, on Wednesday evening in Stabler Arena. Down by as many as 25 early in the second half, Lehigh attempted to stage a comeback on numerous occasions, but couldn’t pull any closer than 13. Sophomore C.J. McCollum led the squad in scoring with 24 points.
“The two major areas of disappointment were the lack of passion and defensive energy in the beginning of the first and second halves,” said head coach Brett Reed. “Offensively, we had too much individualistic play. We didn’t move the basketball and get high enough quality shots.”
McCollum struggled from the field, hitting only 5-of-17, but he did make all 14 free throws to improve his season average to 86 percent from the line. It marked his sixth straight game with 20 or more point, all in league play. He also added a team-high 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double, ninth of his career and sixth this season. Sophomore Gabe Knutson added 11 points while senior Michael Ojo chipped in with 10.
Mike Muscala had a monster game for Bucknell, posting 15 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks. Bryson Johnson led the scoring surge with 18 while three others also finished in double figures.
Bucknell opened up a 14-point lead, 22-8, with 11:34 to go in the first half following a G.W. Boon three-pointer. The Bison eventually opened a 27-10 advantage following a Bryan Cohen three-point play, but Lehigh responded with an 11-4 run capped off by a pair of free throws from McCollum, making it 31-21 with 2:14 left in the first half.
The Bison re-opened a 37-23 lead with 23 seconds to go, but McCollum answered with a layup with the clock winding down to pull Lehigh within 37-25 at the break.
Bucknell began the second half much like it did the first, staging a 15-2 run over the first 3:13 to open up a 52-27 advantage. Lehigh slowly began to chip away to pull within 20, but the Bison continued to have answers. The Mountain Hawks did use a mini 7-0 run midway through the half to turn a 67-47 deficit into 67-54, giving them life with 6:24 still to go in regulation. But once again, the Bison responded as they wouldn’t let them pull any closer than 13 the rest of the way.
Lehigh finished the evening shooting 31 percent (18-of-59) from the field. The Mountain Hawks didn’t hit a three-pointer as they finished 0-of-13 from long range. Bucknell impressed via 41 percent (22-of-54) shooting and 37 percent (7-of-19) from behind the arc. The Mountain Hawks won the battle of the boards, 46-33, marking their first loss of the season when out-rebounding their opponent.
The Mountain Hawks return home for two more games, beginning this Saturday when they welcome Holy Cross to Stabler for a 1 p.m. tip-off. They then enjoy a week off before hosting American on Sunday, Feb. 6 at 2 p.m. That game will be televised nationally on CBS College Sports. Tickets are on sale and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.