BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s basketball team wrapped up the first round of Patriot League play with a bang as the Mountain Hawks (17-6, 5-2 PL) quickly opened a double-digit lead before cruising past Army (10-12, 3-4), 83-64, on Sunday. Four Lehigh players finished with double-digit points, led by a game-high 25 from junior C.J. McCollum, who jumped to fifth in league history in career scoring. He also grabbed 10 rebounds, good for his second straight double-double, while adding five steals, three blocks and three assists.
“It’s so pleasing for a coach to see a team play with energy and play as a unit on defense. That was ultimately what we experienced today” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “People were in the right spots, doing the right things and negating Army’s sophisticated offensive system. It’s really pleasing to see five guys working as a unit on the defensive end of the floor, playing with energy and ultimately getting stops which led to transition opportunities as well.”
McCollum’s 25 points gives him an even 1,800 for his career as he passed Adonal Foyle (Colgate) and Greg Sprink (Navy) to jump into fifth in league history. McCollum has quickly moved from 10th to fifth in the matter of three games.
Sunday was a special Coaches vs. Cancer Game as part of Suits & Sneakers Awareness Weekend. Both coaching staffs wore sneakers with their suits to demonstrate their support for the American Cancer Society and its vision of a world with less cancer and more birthdays. In addition, items were sold and donations accepted for a “wall of hope” in Stabler Arena.
Juniors Holden Greiner and Gabe Knutson added double-figure points with 14 and 10, respectively, while senior Jordan Hamilton chipped in with 10 as well. Knutson fell a rebound shy of a double-double while sophomore Mackey McKnight finished with nine points and a career-high eight boards, falling just shy of his first-career double-double.
The Mountain Hawks only shot 23 percent from long range (7-of-30), but used an up-tempo offense to earn quality looks as they knocked down 60 percent (24-of-40) from inside the arc.
“Our willingness to share the basketball throughout the course of the game was really a significant factor tonight,” said Reed. “Guys were unselfish, they were making extra passes, they were finding people and because of that, the rhythm of our offense was very good. We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well. However, because of the quality looks we got through teamwork, it made a big difference in our overall net product and result.”
With Army holding an early 5-4 lead, Lehigh staged a 7-0 run to go up 11-5 following a McCollum three-pointer with 15:48 on the clock. That marked his first points of the afternoon to pass former Colgate and NBA star Foyle in career scoring.
Lehigh extended a 19-12 lead by using a 16-0 run as the Mountain Hawks held the Black Knights scoreless for a span of 7:13. The run began with a steal from freshman Corey Schaefer, who fed McCollum for an easy dunk. Sophomore Anthony D’Orazio then grabbed a rebound and found Greiner in front of the defense, who converted the layup and was fouled to get the crowd to its feet. Greiner went on to score four more points, while freshman Stefan Cvrkalj capped off the rally with a long jumper to make it 35-12 with 7:17 left in the first.
Army went on to pull back within 20 as the teams exchanged baskets over the ensuing minutes to go into the half with Lehigh leading, 42-23.
After a three-point play by Ella Ellis, who led Army with 24 points, the Mountain Hawks used a 7-0 run capped off by a Hamilton three-pointer, to make it 49-26 with 16:38 remaining.
Lehigh maintained a 20-point lead until the Black Knights used a 10-0 run to trim a 22-point deficit down to 12. Army used two old-fashioned three-point plays along with a conventional trey as part of the run. A Josh Herbeck three-pointer gave the Black Knights life, pulling them back within 57-45 with 9:53 on the clock.
However, Lehigh came right back with an 8-0 run which included five points from McCollum to go up 65-45 with 9:02 remaining. Army again pulled within 14 (71-57), but the Mountain Hawks scored nine of the next 11 points to go up by 21, erasing any doubt. Cvrkalj wrapped up Lehigh’s scoring with a three-pointer as the Mountain Hawks pulled out their 15th double-digit victory of the season. They also eclipsed 80 points for the eighth time this season.
Lehigh finished at 44 percent from the field (31-of-70) and 23 percent from three-point range (7-of-30). Army shot 39 percent (23-of-59) and 35 percent from long range (7-of-20). The Mountain Hawks won the battle of the boards, pulling down a season-high 47 rebounds to the Black Knights’ 36.
Lehigh wraps up its three-game homestand next Saturday when it welcomes Holy Cross to Stabler Arena for a 2 p.m. tip. Tickets for all home games may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling the ticket office at (610) 7LU-GAME.