BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh women’s basketball team (5-6) won its third straight game and fourth in five games Wednesday as it defeated NJIT (4-3) 61-37. The Mountain Hawks combined a strong defensive effort with another solid offensive performance to cruise past the Highlanders. Lehigh was led by seniors Alexa Williams and Emily Gratch as both finished with double-doubles of 13 points, 12 rebounds and 12 points, 11 rebounds, respectively.
“I was really pleased with our performance especially on the defensive end,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “We played great team defense and didn’t allow them to get comfortable in their sets. We had a lot of good offensive production as well. Emily continues to make a difference in the lineup as she makes a lot of good decisions with the basketball.”
Lehigh shot 41.7 percent from the floor while holding NJIT to 23.7 percent and 12.5 percent from behind the arc. The Mountain Hawks outrebounded the Highlanders 50-34 and for the second game in a row, Lehigh distributed the ball around as 21 of the Mountain Hawks’ 25 field goals were assisted.
The Mountain Hawks have relied a lot on the three early in the season but were just 3-for-17 from behind the arc. However, Lehigh used its inside game as it dominated NJIT in the paint outscoring the Highlanders 36-12.
Lehigh got off to a slow start in the game as the Mountain Hawks had just one field goal in the first six minutes and trailed 7-3 with 14:11 to go in the opening half. After a Gratch scored a quick four points to even the game, NJIT responded with a 4-0 run of its own to take an 11-7 lead with 11:39 left.
But then the Mountain Hawks stepped up their defensive pressure and started to hit some open looks as Lehigh went on a 15-0 run over the next seven minutes to take a 22-11 lead with 4:12 to go in the half. NJIT ended the run with a couple free throws but Lehigh held the Highlanders without a field goal for 11 minutes in the first half as the Mountain Hawks held a 32-16 lead at the break.
Lehigh shot 40.6 percent from the field including 25 percent from behind the arc while the Mountain Hawks held NJIT to 21.4 percent from the field and 0-for-6 from three. Lehigh also outrebounded NJIT 25-18 while the Mountain Hawks forced 13 turnovers. And offensively, Lehigh spread the ball around as 12 of the Mountain Hawks’ 13 field goals were assisted, four coming from sophomore Hilary Weaver.
The Mountain Hawks continued where they left off in the second half as Lehigh went on a 10-0 to take a 42-16 lead with 14:36 to go. Lehigh would lead by as many as 27 but NJIT picked up its pressure and went on an 11-0 run to cut Lehigh’s deficit to 44-28 with 9:29 left, forcing the Mountain Hawks to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Lehigh responded with a 12-3 run as the lead blossomed back up to 56-31 with 3:47 to put the game away and end any hope of an NJIT comeback.
It was Williams’ second double-double of the season while Gratch picked up her first of the year. Along with Williams and Gratch, junior Kelly Peterson had 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting as she finished in double-figures for the second game in a row. Freshman Katie O’Reilly added eight points and seven rebounds while senior Aly Byorick also had eight points.
NJIT was led by Alyssa Albanese who had 10 points and five rebounds.
With the win, Lehigh improved to 6-0 all-time over NJIT.
Wednesday’s game was the second of six straight games at Stabler Arena for the Mountain Hawks as Lehigh returns to the court Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. to host Robert Morris.