ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team led from the beginning and wouldn’t look back as a combination of rebounds and three-pointers led the Mountain Hawks (13-11, 4-5 PL) past Navy, 87-72, giving them a season sweep over the Midshipmen for the first time since 2006. In the end, Lehigh knocked down 10-of 20 three-pointers and out-rebounded Navy, 49-25, to spark its second straight road win and fourth in its last six.
“I thought we played with tremendous energy,” said head coach Brett Reed. “We got great bench energy as well. I was also pleased with the way we shared the basketball.”
Senior Michael Ojo led the way with 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting and 5-of-10 from three-point range. Sophomore C.J. McCollum posted 20 on 7-of-15 shooting from the field. It also marked McCollum’s ninth straight 20 point scoring game. He fell just one rebound shy of his fifth-straight double-double, as he finished with nine boards.
Ojo did post his first-career double-double, though, behind a career-high 11 rebounds. Junior Jordan Hamilton enjoyed his third straight stellar game, tying a career-high with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Sophomore Holden Greiner finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
“They went up and got the basketball at the height of their jump,” said Reed. “I was pleased with our focus on rebounding. We wanted to hold Navy to one shot as much as we could.”
Navy finished with 11 three-pointers, as they were led by 22 from freshman J.J. Avila. Two others also chipped in with double figures.
The story from the start was rebounds and three-pointers for the Mountain Hawks, who took a 47-36 lead into the locker room. In total, Lehigh held a 26-11 first-half rebounding edge, while hitting 7-of-12 three-pointers, led by four from Ojo.
Lehigh jumped out to a quick start, converting the first two baskets to take a 4-0 lead following a McCollum made jumper with 19:04 to go. Navy pulled even at five, but an Ojo offensive rebound and putback, followed by an Ojo three-pointer from the corner, put the Mountain Hawks up, 10-5, with 16:05 remaining.
Offensive rebounds continued to be the story as Hamilton converted four straight points, with the second coming on the offensive glass, to make it 14-8 with 15:04 to go.
After two McCollum free throws, a Hamilton fast break layup gave him six points in only 2:41, while extending Lehigh’s advantage to 18-11 lead, forcing the Midshipmen to call timeout.
Greiner extended the run to 6-0 via two made free throws, then freshman Anthony D’Orazio converted a four-point play, Lehigh’s first of the season, to open a 24-11 lead with 11:46 on the clock.
Navy answered with a 7-0 run to pull back within 24-18, but an Ojo transition three broke the momentum and put Lehigh back up nine, 27-18. The Midshipmen later responded with five straight points – an Avila three-pointer and Thurgood Wynn fastbreak layup - to pull within 30-26 with 7:30 on the clock, forcing Reed to call timeout.
That run was broken by yet another three, this time by McCollum to go up 33-26 with 7:12 to go. Knutson made a nice low post move around the Navy defense and finished the dunk to put Lehigh up, 35-29, with 5:36 to go.
The Mountain Hawks went on to outscore Navy, 12-7 over the final minutes, which included Ojo’s fourth three-pointer, and concluded with a McCollum offensive rebound and putback with 37 seconds on the clock.
Lehigh continued to rain threes early in the second half, as McCollum made it 50-36 with 19:36 remaining, then Ojo hit his fifth of the evening about a minute later to help the Mountain Hawks go up, 53-39 with 18:37 remaining.
Navy responded with an impressive 13-2 run over the next 4:11, as a Brennan Wyatt three-pointer pulled the Midshipmen back within 55-52 with 14:28 to go.
McCollum continued to have an answer, hitting another three only 15 seconds later to put Lehigh back up, 58-52. Knutson made it 60-52, but Navy scored the next seven to pull within 60-59 with 11:25 on the clock.
Lehigh responded with an impressive 15-1 run over 4:01 to re-open a double figure lead. The run saw five different Mountain Hawks score, highlighted by a putback layup by senior David Safstrom, who was fouled. He converted the free throw to put Lehigh up, 71-60, with 7:59 to go. Hamilton then hit two free throws and D’Orazio hit a short pull up, to extend Lehigh’s lead to 75-60 with 7:24 on the clock.
The teams traded baskets the rest of the way, with the lead remaining in double figures. Navy tried to make a run, but couldn’t pull any closer than 12 as Lehigh always had an answer.
Lehigh shot 49 percent (30-of-61), 50 percent (10-of-20) from three-point range while Navy came in at 40 percent (26-of-65), 31 percent (11-of-35) from long distance. Lehigh also hit 17-of-19 free throws.
The Mountain Hawks wraps up their mini two-game road trip when they travel to Army on Saturday for a 4 p.m. tip-off with the Black Knights. Listen live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 and on Lehighsports.com. The squad returns home on Wednesday (Feb. 16) when it hosts Colgate at Stabler Arena. Tickets are on sale and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.