BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team stormed out of the gate to take a 26-2 lead and cruised the rest of the way, as the Mountain Hawks (7-3) downed Saint Francis (Pa.), 71-50, on Wednesday evening in Stabler Arena. The win marked Lehigh’s third this season by 20 or more points as the squad won for the seventh time in its last eight games.
All seven of the Mountain Hawks’ victories have come by double figures. Lehigh stands at 7-3 after 10 games for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign.
“It’d really be hard to find flaws with our performance at the beginning of the game,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “I thought we were glued-in defensively, the communication was solid, we held them to one shot and ultimately, we shared the basketball and were able to make the right rotations to get open shots. Fortunately, we were able to knock them down to complement a strong defensive start.”
Lehigh’s starters dominated in its time, opening up a 42-point, 68-26 lead before emptying its bench. Saint Francis closed the gap down the stretch, but the Mountain Hawks had all but sealed the victory.
Junior Holden Greiner led the way with 17 points, just two shy of his career high. That included 15 points in the first half via 5-of-5 from three-point range. Fellow junior C.J. McCollum added 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals. In the process, he became only the 10th player in school history to eclipse 1,500 career points, now owning 1,505.
Four other Mountain Hawks recorded seven or more points, including a career-high seven from freshman Conroy Baltimore, and eight from junior Gabe Knutson and senior Justin Maneri. Maneri’s total stood one shy of a career high.
The Mountain Hawks shot 53 percent from the field (28-of-53) while holding Saint Francis to 35 percent shooting (18-of-52), including 17 percent in the first half (4-of-24). The Red Flash entered shooting 49.9 percent from the field.
Lehigh used a three-point barrage to open up a 26-2 advantage with 10:42 remaining in the first half. Greiner got it started with a trey just 14 seconds into the game, while sophomore Mackey McKnight made it 6-0 and Greiner’s second trifecta made it 9-0 with 17:43 on the clock.
Saint Francis recorded its first field goal with 16:48 remaining, but Lehigh went on a 17-0 run over the next 8:17 before the Red Flash posted their next points on an Anthony Ervin jumper. Lehigh opened a 30-point lead for the first time with 1:48 on the clock behind a Baltimore layup to make it 40-9.
Lehigh’s largest lead of the first came at the end of the half as freshman Corey Schaefer knocked down a three-pointer as time expired to make it 43-11 after 20 minutes. It marked the second time this season the Mountain Hawks took a 30+ point lead into the locker room; they owned a 48-14 advantage against William & Mary at the half.
The Mountain Hawks continued to extend their lead in the second, opening as much as a 40-point advantage, 63-23, following a pair of McKnight free throws with 12:38 on the clock. The lead grew to 42 (68-26) after a Maneri jumper before the Red Flash pulled closer down the stretch.
Lehigh finished 53 percent (28-of-53) from the field and from three-point range (9-of-17). Saint Francis shot 35 percent (18-of-52), including 19 percent (3-of-16) from long range. The Mountain Hawks held a 40-25 edge in rebounds.
The Mountain Hawks hit the road Saturday to face an upstart Wagner squad that stands 7-2 on the season. Lehigh will then host Arcadia next Monday 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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