WORCESTER, Mass. – The Lehigh men’s basketball team jumped out to an early lead, but it wasn’t enough as the Holy Cross offense proved too much in a tough 89-76 defeat on Saturday. With the loss coupled with American’s win over Lafayette, Lehigh (15-14, 6-8 Patriot) will enter the Patriot League Tournament as the No. 4 seed and will host fifth-seeded Navy in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday.
Tickets for Wednesday’s game will go on sale Monday morning and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.
Lehigh trailed by only one at the half, but the Crusaders quickly extended the lead in the beginning stages of the second. Devin Brown was the story, scoring 18 of his game-high 26 points after halftime.
“We ran into a little bit of trouble in the second half,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “Holy Cross played an excellent, excellent game. We weren’t able to stave off their run and get stops when we needed most.”
Sophomore C.J. McCollum led the Mountain Hawks with 19 points, 15 coming in the first half. Freshman Mackey McKnight posted his second straight double-figure scoring game as he finished with 14 on 5-of-11 shooting. Sophomores Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner also finished in double figures with 15 and 12, respectively.
Holy Cross also had four players finish in double figures, led by Brown whose 26 came on 8-of-15 shooting. Andrew Keister finished with 20 while Andrew Beinert had 15 and Mike Cavataio posted 13.
A fast-paced and entertaining first half saw 93 combined points scored as Holy Cross took a 47-46 lead after 20 minutes. Lehigh jumped out to the quick start, scoring on its first four possessions for a quick 9-2 lead. Knutson got the scoring started with two straight field goals, then after a McKnight basket, he found Greiner for the open three-pointer, forcing Holy Cross to take a timeout with 17:53 remaining.
The Crusaders responded with a 8-2 run, which included consecutive baskets from Beinert, to pull within 11-10 with 15:47 on the clock.
A McKnight three-point play gave Lehigh its largest lead, 18-10, but Holy Cross responded by scoring nine of the next 11 points to pull within 20-19 with 12:12 to go.
The Mountain Hawks again opened up a seven-point lead, this time, 30-23, following a Jordan Hamilton runner. McCollum had previously hit two consecutive three-pointers in a 44-second span.
The back and forth play continued as Holy Cross responded with a 7-0 run of its own to tie the score at 30. McKnight broke the momentum with a three-point play the other way to put Lehigh back up, 33-30 with 7:18 on the clock.
The Crusaders went on to take their first lead of the game, 35-33, following a Dave Dudzinski basket, but the Mountain Hawks answered with a pair of threes - by Greiner and McCollum - to retake the advantage. Holy Cross came right back though as Josh Jones helped the Crusaders regain a 40-39 lead with 4:19 on the clock.
Holy Cross eventually opened up a 47-41 lead, but the Mountain Hawks responded with five straight points to pull within 47-46 at the half.
The Crusaders came storming out of the locker room, scoring the first eight points of the half to take their largest lead of the game, 55-46, with 17:24 on the clock.
Lehigh responded with a mini run of its own as a McKnight trey pulled the Mountain Hawks within 59-55 with 15:15 to go. Again, Holy Cross responded, scoring nine of the next 13 points to re-open the nine-point advantage with 11:34 to go.
A Greiner second-chance layup pulled Lehigh back within 69-63, but Brown hit his fourth three-pointer of the evening to help Holy Cross retake the 72-64 lead.
Lehigh continued to pull within six, but the Crusaders always had answers. Two made free throws gave Holy Cross an 81-69 lead following two Brown free throws. Brown later hit a tough fallaway three-pointer with the shot clock running down and McKnight all over him to make it 84-70 with 5:16 remaining, effectively serving as the dagger.
McKnight hit a three-pointer with 3:55 on the clock to break nearly a three-minute scoring drought, but it wasn’t enough as Holy Cross held on for the 89-76 win.
The Mountain Hawks finished at 38 percent (25-of-66) from the field, 35 percent (8-of-23) from three-point range. Holy Cross finished at 52 percent (31-of-60) and 53 percent (8-of-15) from three-point range. The Crusaders won the battle of the boards, 47-28. Lehigh did impress from the free throw line, hitting 86 percent (18-of-21), but it wasn’t enough as the Crusaders knocked down 19-of-26 of their own.
The Mountain Hawks will host Navy in the Patriot League Quarterfinals on Wednesday. Tickets will go on sale Monday morning and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.