ITHACA, N.Y. - Despite holding a seven-point halftime advantage, Cornell made a strong second-half charge and carried that into overtime, downing the Lehigh men’s basketball team, 81-79, on Saturday evening. The Mountain Hawks (6-3) hit only 3-of-24 three-pointers, which proved to be costly as their win streak was snapped at six.
“We ended up taking bad shots and broke down within our system,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “We didn’t have the type of balance and flow that we’ve had. We rested at times and ultimately, rebounding and second chance points hurt us.”
With a game-high 31 points, junior C.J. McCollum moved into 25th in Patriot League history with 1,492 career points. He finished 8-of-16 from the field and 13-of-15 from the free throw line, while also adding five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Juniors Holden Greiner and Gabe Knutson recorded double-figure points with 17 and 16, respectively. Knutson also added 11 rebounds for his second-career double-double.
Both sides had to deal with foul trouble, especially in overtime, as McCollum, Greiner, Knutson, sophomore Anthony D’Orazio and senior Jordan Hamilton all had four fouls. Two Cornell players fouled out as well.
Like Thursday at Fordham, Knutson had the hot hand in the early going. Down 4-0, he got the Mountain Hawks on the scoreboard by nailing his second three-pointer in as many games. He then posted four more points in a 38-second span, keeping Lehigh within 10-7 with 17:05 to go in the first.
The Big Red opened an 18-13 lead following a Dwight Tarwater three-pointer, Cornell’s fourth trey in the game’s first 6:34. The Big Red continued to shine from behind the arc, finishing the first half 8-of-17 (47 percent) from three-point range. Lehigh had an answer, outscoring Cornell, 26-14 the rest of the half to take a seven-point lead after 20 minutes of play.
After Knutson stood tall in the early going, Greiner impressed in the middle stages, scoring eight of his 11 first-half points in less than five minutes to help Lehigh open a 22-20 lead, the Mountain Hawks’ first of the evening, with 8:13 to go.
McCollum took over down the stretch of the first, posting nine of his 15 first-half points in the final 3:15, beginning with a three-pointer followed by a three-point play, a bank shot and free throw. Lehigh went into halftime up 39-32, despite hitting only 20 percent (2-of-10) from behind the arc.
Cornell came out of the locker room strong, scoring the first five points, including Drew Ferry’s fifth three of the evening, to pull within 39-37. Greiner had an answer, however, scoring the Mountain Hawks’ first four points of the half to keep them in front.
The Big Red pulled within 45-44, and had a chance inside to take the lead, but freshman Conroy Baltimore made a big block to spring the Mountain Hawks on a fast break. Sophomore Mackey McKnight finished a layup at the other end to make it 47-44. Lehigh extended its advantage back to seven, 51-44, after a McCollum layup with 11:30 on the clock.
However, the Mountain Hawks’ offense went cold, scoring only five points over the next 6:51, and the Big Red responded with a 14-5 run to go up 58-56 after a Johnathon Gray three-point play. Cornell opened up a 64-60 lead before McCollum ended Lehigh’s 9:02 field goal drought with a layup to make it 64-62. He then tied the score at 66 with a pair of free throws with 18 seconds remaining.
Lehigh made a big defensive stand on Cornell’s final possession, forcing an errant shot to take the game into overtime.
The Mountain Hawks went ahead 70-68 in the extra session behind four straight McCollum points, but Cornell responded with a mini 6-0 run, which included a big three-point play from Miles Asafo-Adjei to give the Big Red a 73-70 advantage.
Down 76-71, McKnight was fouled from behind the arc and went on to knock down all three free throws to pull within 76-74, but Cornell eventually went back ahead, 80-76. McCollum hit a three-pointer with just six seconds remaining - Lehigh’s first since the first half - to pull within 80-79. Ferry went on to hit one-of-two free throws at the other end, giving Knutson one final half-court heave, which fell short.
Lehigh shot 38 percent (23-of-60) from the field and only 13 percent (3-of-24) from three-point range. Cornell finished at 39 percent (25-of-64) and 36 percent (10-of-28) from long range.
The Mountain Hawks will return to Stabler Arena on Wednesday (Dec. 7) for a 7:30 p.m. showdown against Saint Francis (Pa.) which marks the back end of a doubleheader with the women (who host NJIT at 5 p.m.). Lehigh then travels to Wagner on Saturday (Dec. 10) before hosting Arcadia (Dec. 12) in the last game before breaking for final exams. Tickets for all home games are now on sale and may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.
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